Palghar lynching: Police laxity exposed, cops suspended, CID probe ordered
Last week, a crowd of hundreds rained blows and sticks on three men, including two sadhus, in Palghar, Maharashtra, eventually killing them. The lynching incident sparked outrage and exposed police laxity since a couple of them were present at the site. Now, it has been reported that cops should have been better prepared, considering that they dealt with a similar situation, not long ago.
Sadhus, on way to Surat, were pulled out of car
Sadhus Sushil Giri Maharaj (35) and Maharaj Kalpavrikshgiri (70) along with their driver Nilesh Telgane (35) were attacked in the tribal village of Gadchinchle. They were stopped from taking the National Highway due to the lockdown, hence, took a detour. At the village, the locals stopped their car, dragged them out, and killed them. Reports said the locals "mistook" them as thieves.
This wasn't the first time cops faced such a situation
On seeing the furious crowd, the driver managed to alert the police. But the cops of Kasa police station should have known how to handle the situation better. On April 14, they faced a similar situation in Sarni Patilpada village, some 60 km away from Gadchinchle. In the first case, the cops managed to scoop the car's occupants away from the blood-baying crowd.
Officers who were sent to spot have an unsatisfying record
In fact, the cops —Assistant Police Inspector Anandrao Kale and Police Sub Inspector Sudhir Katare, who were sent to Gadchinchle were also present at Sarni Patilpada village. For the last three months, the area has been brimming with organ trafficking rumors but despite this, more officers weren't deployed. By the time, four cops reached the spot, the mob had overturned the sadhus' car.
Reportedly, cops left the victims alone, didn't stop mob
According to Indian Express, a group of 16 cops reached the spot after 45 minutes. They took the men away from the mob, gave them a seat in a police van, but the crowd dragged them out. Videos showed Kalpavrikshgiri clinging on to one officer, pleading to be saved, but the latter shrugged him off. Other cops too ran away.
Video doesn't show the whole truth: Kale
Kale, who is also SHO of Kasa police station, and Katare have been suspended. But the former defended himself. "The video only shows half the story. It does not show that we first rescued the men and took them inside the van. One of our colleagues has health issues. Twenty policemen could not have fought back against a mob of 500," he said.
Initially, cops were told mob wasn't as strong
In fact, SP Palghar, Gaurav Singh, also defended Kale saying he reached 45 minutes late as the spot was far. "Initially, he was informed that only a small number of villagers had gathered around the vehicle. But by the time he and three other officials reached the village, the number had increased. After assessing the situation, he called for 20 more cops," Singh said.
Apparently, not many are buying cops' stories
However, the cops' version was refuted by eyewitnesses. Kashinath Chaudhary, who claimed to have seen the entire incident unfold, told HT that cops didn't fire bullets in air to disperse the largely-drunk crowd. Vinod Nikole, an MLA from Dahanu, said cops should have done more about rumor-mongering. And Brian Lobo, a member of tribal outfit Kashtkari Sanghatana, said there's a pattern in these attacks.
According to Lobo, tribals are "scared"
"The tribals are in fear owing to the lockdown. That explains the April 13 attack on two waiters of a hotel in Dhanivare in Dahanu, who were mistaken to be thieves or even the April 14 attack by 250 tribals," Lobo said.
ABVP warned of agitation, CID probe ordered
Facing flak after the incident, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered a CID probe but said the matter should not be given a communal color. He also spoke to Home Minister Amit Shah yesterday. While demanding an investigation, the Akhil Bharatiya Vishwa Parishad has warned of a strong agitation. And BJP leaders have said Thackeray failed in protecting "gurus". Over 110 have been arrested.