Four volunteers with a Ganpati mandal in Kalyan were arrested Wednesday after they allegedly pushed a police sub-inspector into an artificial pond and attempted to drown him.
According to the police, the mandal had refused to immerse its Ganpati idol, and was obstructing the queue of families gathered for the immersion.
When the policeman attempted to reason with the mandal and resume the immersion, one volunteer allegedly pushed him into the pool.
The incident took place at Tees Gaon in Kalyan East at 10.40 pm on Tuesday during the first round of immersions. The police said the queue at the pool had been moving along smoothly until the local Jarimari Ganpati Mandal suddenly stopped it.
According to the police, Sub-Inspector Nitin Dagde asked the mandal to stop playing music as it was past 10 pm.
“But the mandal refused to listen and told me that they would not immerse their idol unless they were allowed to play,” Dagde said.
Due to the sudden halt, a large crowd gathered at the pool and Dagde feared a law-and-order disturbance.
“I was afraid that in the rush, some idols might break, so I decided to immerse the idols myself,” he said.
In videos recorded by eyewitnesses, one of the mandal’s volunteers can purportedly be seen charging at Dagde and pushing him into the centre of the pool. The duo then grappled in the water, while some other volunteers tried to push the policeman underneath.
“The accused sat on Dagde’s shoulders and water entered his mouth and nose. He twice pushed Dagde’s head below the water,” said Inspector Sanju John of Kolshewadi police station.
After a brief struggle, Dagde was able to swim back, but not before he was surrounded by three other volunteers. “The accused manhandled Dagde and tried to push him back into the water,” John said.
Shocked eyewitnesses, meanwhile, shouted at each other to call the police control room. No one, however, rushed to Dagde’s aid, sources said.
Accused Bandesh Gaikwad (21), Nayan Gaikwad (22), Naresh Gaikwad (23) and Rahul Gaikwad, all residents of Tees Gaon, were arrested on Wednesday evening.
They were booked for attempt to murder, assaulting a public servant, obstructing a public servant from discharging his duties and voluntarily causing hurt under the Indian Penal Code.
A shaken Dagde went home after a medical examination. He maintained that he was not at fault and only descended into the water to immerse idols as he feared that there could be trouble due to the large crowd.
His incensed mother had earlier said, “What would we have done if he had drowned? If the police do not arrest these men, I will begin a hunger strike.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) Satish Mathur said the department would write to the state government to amend section 353 (which punishes the use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his duty) of the Indian Penal
Code and make it a non-bailable offence.
“Currently, it attracts imprisonment of only two years. We want offenders to be jailed for seven years so that the punishment acts as a deterrent,” the DGP said.