CM Warns Against Communalizing Incident As BJP, Cong Trade Barbs

Amid political mudslinging over the Palghar lynching case, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Monday that lynchings would not be tolerated in Maharashtra and warned that no one should communalize the incident. He said he spoke to Union home minister Amit Shah about the matter. The state government has ordered a CID probe into the case and suspended two cops, including the local police station in-charge. The state has so far arrested over 110 accused.

Palghar lynching: Maha suspends 2 cops, gives probe to CID

April 20, 202042

Mumbai, April 20 (IANS) Hours after Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray briefed Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday, the state government suspended two policemen and directed the Crime Investigation Department to probe the sensational mob lynching of two Sadhus (mendicants) and their driver last week.

In an address to the state this afternoon, Thackeray said that so far five of the masterminds and another more than 100 persons, including 9 minors have been arrested so far in the crime that took place during the lockdown.
“We also need to find out the people who are creating communal tensions on social media, I requested Amit Shah. We will also find them and take action against them… No one will be spared,” the CM warned.

The two Sadhus and their driver, proceeding from Nashik to Surat, were lynched by a 200-strong mob outside the Gadchinchle village on April 16 in a police vehicle amid rumors that they were robbers or kidnappers.
The mob also attacked the policemen and damaged two police vans, including one in which the Sadhus were shifted by the police.

The victims were identified next morning as Chikne Maharaj Kalpavriksha Giri, 70, Sushilgiri Maharaj, 30, from the Shree Panch Dashnam Juna-Akhada order, and their driver Nilesh Telwade, 30.

“The incident took place around 110 kms from Palghar town on the night of April 16, at Gadchinchle village, on the border with Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar-Haveli. While all of them are in police custody, the minors have been sent to a juvenile remand home,” Thackeray said.

“The investigation is handed over to CID, IGP Konkan Range is directed to enquire into police action. Two police officers are suspended,” said Director-General of Police Subodh Jaiswal, on the probe to be conducted by CID Additional Director-General of Police, Atul Kulkarni.

The incident occurred around 10 p.m on April 16 and a team led by the top district police officials reached there around midnight. They launched a hunt in the forests and managed to nab many of the accused hiding in the nearby forests, and some are still absconding.

It is learnt that the Sadhus were turned back at the border from going to Gujarat and were reportedly returning back to Nashik when they met their tragic end in a desolate corner of the state that night.

Revealing that the Centre has sought a report on the incident, Thackeray ruled out the involvement of any communal groups in the incident which happened in a remote state border area accessible only via the Dadra and Nagar Haveli in view of bad roads.

“There is no involvement of any religious or communal groups, it’s a mob-lynching case. Any persons attempting to give it a communal colour will be dealt with strictly,” Thackeray added.

BJP leaders have accused the Thackeray government of “failing to protect” the two sadhus who were on their way to Gujarat to attend the funeral of their guru. The VHP has demanded a highlevel probe by a special investigating team (SIT) or the CBI into the “conspiracy”. The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad has threatened to launch a stir if strong action is not taken against those who lynched the Juna Akhara seers. The Congress, condemning the incident, flagged that the Maharashtra government has already cracked down on the culprits and accused the BJP of trying to “communalize the situation”. Thackeray in his speech said, “There is no religious angle to the Palghar incident.”

BJP’s social media head Amit Malviya said, “The saffron clad sadhus were pleading with cops to protect them, who let the mob lynch them. Maharashtra is collapsing, from health to law and order…” VHP secretary Milind Parande said, “The ambush seems to be part of a deeper conspiracy because many times in the past, there have been incidents of violence inspired by leftists in the area.”

But sate Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant tweeted: “The village Divashi Gadchinchale [where the incident occurred] is known as BJP bastion for last ten years including the post of village head… Most of the people arrested in the lynching incident are from BJP.”

The incident occurred on Thursday night when the two sadhus, from Kandivli, and their driver were going towards Surat. Their vehicle was stopped near a village in Palghar, the three dragged out and beaten to death. Police tried to rescue them by firing in the air, but that wasn’t enough to dissuade the mob, as can be seen in a video of the incident that has gone viral; the police can be seen letting the mob take back the trio. The deceased have been identified as Chikne Maharaj Kalpavrukshagiri (70), Sushilgiri Maharaj (35), and their driver Nilesh Telgade (30).

Thackeray said the incident could have been avoided. “The two sadhus were on their way to Gujarat, but were stopped by authorities at the Union territory border of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and sent back into Maharashtra. The incident would have been avoided, if the Dadra, Nagar Haveli authority had kept them in their custody at night and handed them over to Maharashtra the next morning,” Thackeray said.

To avoid being caught at the Maharashtra-Gujarat border at Talasari, sealed due to the lockdown, the trio had taken the Dabhadi-Khanvel Road that runs through a forest. Thackeray said he spoke to Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath on Sunday. “Shah is aware that there is no communal angle. He just told us to take care,” said Thackeray.