'Patriotic' don Ravi Pujari behind Pune jail murder?
Suspected Indian Mujahideen operative Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui was killed in a jail in Pune yesterday by two undertrials, a murder that intelligence sources said was in all likelihood masterminded by “patriotic don” Ravi Pujari. Siddiqui was an accused in several blasts in the country, including the Bangalore Chinnaswamy stadium blast. He was brought to Pune from Delhi in May for investigations in the failed attempt to plant a bomb at the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati temple on the day of the German Bakery blast there on February 13, 2010.
The police said local gangster Sharad Mohol and his accomplice Alok Bhalerao, both undertrials at the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune, confessed to strangling Siddiqui with the drawstring of a pair of shorts at 9.45 am yesterday. Soon after the murder, Bhalerao reportedly walked up to the jail officials and told them he and Mohol had killed Siddiqui because he was involved in anti-national activities.
According to Intelligence Bureau sources, Siddiqui had been a marked man since the time of his arrest and would have been attacked even if he were in any other jail in the country. They said Mumbai gangster Ravi Pujari, who is known to portray himself as a patriotic don, had vowed to finish off Siddiqui because of his anti-national activities.
Without naming Pujari, an ATS official said they were looking at the possibility of the hand of a self-styled “Hindu don” from Mumbai in the killing.
“We are also probing this angle. Mohol and Bhalerao were in touch with a Mumbai-based gangster who portrays himself as a Hindu don and has killed some Dawood Ibrahim gangsters before,” an ATS official said.
ATS chief Rakesh Maria said Siddiqui was to be presented in court yesterday, where the state police were going to submit before the court that their investigation was done and the Delhi police could take custody of him. Siddiqui was arrested in November by the Delhi Police in connection with various blasts in the country. A case was registered against Siddiqui in Pune on December 9, 2011, in which he was accused of trying to plant a bomb at the Dagdusheth Halwai temple there.
In May this year the state police obtained a transit remand to bring him to Pune. Maria said the Bhatkal brothers, key accused in several terror attacks, had helped Siddiqui in his hour of need and earned his loyalty. “Siddiqui was in desperate need of Rs 1 lakh and IM chief Riyaz Bhatkal provided the money,” Maria said. “That’s how Siddiqui became close to the Bhatkal brothers and was used by them in their terror activities.”
According to officials of the Yerwada police station, about 9.45 am Siddiqui was going for a bath when Mohol and Bhalerao entered the anda cell where the IM suspect was kept and attacked him.
Siddiqui was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead. Around noon, the jail informed the Yerwada police station. The body was sent for post-mortem at 8.10 pm. Some sources also said there was a possibility Siddiqui was killed out of personal enmity. They said Mohol and Siddiqui knew each other from before and Mohol, who used to buy firearms from Uttar Pradesh to sell them in the state, saw him as a rival in the illegal business. Siddiqui hails from Barh Samela village in Bihar, which neighbours Uttar Pradesh. “We have registered a case under Sections 302 and 34,” Senior Inspector Kishor Jadhav of the Yerwada police station. The police said before their arrest, Mohol and Bhalerao were involved in a case of kidnap for ransom of the sarpanch of Dasve village near Pune.
Jail superintendent suspended
Home Minister R R Patil ordered the suspension of Yerwada jail superintendent S V Khatavkar after the murder of Siddiqui and said there would be a CID probe into the incident.