TENSION prevailed in Sangli on Wednesday after it came to light that a suspect arrested in a case of robbery and remanded in police custody by a court was allegedly beaten to death by police. While the policemen had initially said the accused had fled from their custody, an inquiry confirmed that they not only beat the accused till he died inside the Sangli city police station, but also burnt his body to destroy evidence.
Addressing reporters on Wednesday, Inspector General of Police (Kolhapur Range) Vishwas Nangare-Patil said six persons, including five policemen, had been arrested in connection with the case. The six are sub-inspector Yuvraj Kamte, havildars Anil Lad and Arun Tone, constables Suraj Mulla and Rahul Shingte and civilian Zakir Pattewala.
According to the Sangli police, one Santosh Gaikwad, an engineer, was waiting at the Sangli bus stop to take a bus for Nandni village in Shirol taluka in the early hours of Sunday when two persons on a motorcycle offered him a lift to his destination and he agreed. On reaching the Akashwani centre on Kolhapur road, the two allegedly robbed him of Rs 2,000 and his cell phone at knife point.
Within 24 hours, a Sangli City police team arrested two suspects, identified as Aniket Ashok Kothale (26) and Amol Sunil Bhandare (23), both residents of Bharat Nagar in Sangli. On Monday, the two suspects were produced in a local court, which remanded them in three days’ police custody for further investigation.
On Monday night, the two were taken from the lock-up to the detection branch room where the accused policemen allegedly hung Kothale upside down from a ceiling fan, forced his head in a bucket of water and beat him so badly that he died in front of Bhandare. Kothale sustained a severe head injury, according to the police.
According to the IG, the police team then took Kothale’s body and Bhandare to a civil hospital and allegedly told the doctors to give a favourable report.
After with the doctors refused to toe their line, the policemen took Kothale’s body and Bhandare to Ambaghat area in a private car on Tuesday morning. They kept Bhandare at some spot near the Krishna river and set Kothale’s body on fire at another spot by pouring kerosene. As the body did not burn completely, they poured some petrol and burnt it again, said the police.
Meanwhile, Deputy Superintendent of Police Deepali Kale came to the Sangli city police station in the early hours of Tuesday and found out that the two suspects were missing from the lock-up. The officials investigating the robbery case told her that Kothale and Bhandare fled from the custody around 11.45 pm Monday. Soon, checkposts were set up in search of the two suspects.
Later in the day, sub-inspector Kamte told his seniors that they had nabbed Bhandare and a search was on for Kothale. However, Kothale’s family staged a protest in front of the police station, claiming that he had been beaten him to death in custody. Later, more people started gathering, and the situation got tense. An angry mob tried to attack the police station on Wednesday.
After an inquiry by senior officers confirmed that Kothale died in police custody, the five accused policemen and the civilian were arrested on charges of murder and destroying evidence. “The state Crime Investigation Department (CID) initiated a probe into the case of death in police custody,” said IG Nangare-Patil.