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Before breakthrough, Dabholkar's kin, supporters gathered to protest snail-paced probe

Before the police's breakthrough, Dabholkar’s son and daughter complained that the cops had stopped briefing them about the progress of the investigation, and demanded that new officers be roped in for a swift probe

Activists supporting anti-superstition crusader Dr Narendra Dabholkar were upset that five months after his daylight murder, the Pune police had failed to catch the murderers. This was before the cops had arrested the two accused in the case.

Protesters at Omkareshwar Bridge
Protesters at Omkareshwar Bridge

Waving black flags and raising slogans against an ineffective probe, the volunteers converged on Omkareshwar Bridge to express their dissatisfaction over the progress in investigations into the murder of Dr Dabholkar -- a rationalist and founder of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (State Committee for Eradication of Superstition) -- his family demanded a “change in leadership” of the probe team.

Mukta Dabholkar and Dr Hameed Dabholkar
Mukta Dabholkar and Dr Hameed Dabholkar. Pics/Krunal Gosavi

The Pune police, along with other investigative agencies including the state Anti-Terrorism Squad and the Crime Branch, failed to identify the suspects and establish the motive behind the murder of Dr Dabholkar, which took place on August 20 on Omkareshwar Bridge.

A delegation led by Dr Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta Dabholkar and son Dr Hameed Dabholkar met the Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol on Monday afternoon. The delegates raised several questions (see box) about the way in which the police have handled the case.

Mukta said, “If the present team of police officials has tried all possible ways and is not getting the desired results, we think that new officers should be roped in. These officers can give a new direction to the investigations with their fresh approach.”

Hameed said, “Initially, the police used to inform or brief us regularly about the progress in investigations, but they have now stopped it.”

Asked whether the case should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), he said, “What would change if the investigation is handed to CBI? Are the ATS and local police going to stop investigating the case? I think responsibility should be fixed on these officials. The state government and its agencies can’t shy away from their responsibility.”

Mukta said, “We are not opposed to a CBI probe in the matter, but we fear that in that case, 600 to 700 officers from state police, ATS and Crime Branch will withdraw from the case.”

Speaking on behalf of Commissioner of Police Gulabrao Pol, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Shahaji Solunke said, “We are constantly working on every new lead obtained during interrogations and investigations. As far as briefing the family is concerned, we had last informed them on December 4. Since then (until yesterday) there has been no substantial progress in the case, we did not update them.”

Questions raised by Mukta and Hameed Dabholkar

1. Two police chowkies are located at a distance of 50 feet from the crime scene. Why did the police take time to identify Dr Narendra Dabholkar after his murder?

2. Why did the police take 1.5 hours to shift his body to hospital?

3. What happened during the nakabandi (checkpoints) on the morning of August 20?

4. Has there been any departmental enquiry about how the killers managed to flee from the crime scene?

5. What action has been taken against the police personnel or officers who were found guilty of dereliction of duty?

6. What action is the police taking against extremist organisations that are publishing derogatory content about Dr Dabholkar?

Pune wasn’t the only city to witness such remonstration. ANS volunteers carried out similar protests in almost all of the state’s districts on Monday.

A Facebook campaign has also been started by Dr Dabholkar’s supporters, who have changed their profile pictures to a black screen, in a ‘blackout protest’ against the failure of the police investigations.
— Inputs by Dheeraj Bengrut

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