Palghar lynching: Mob retreats deeper into the forest, village wears deserted look

Updated: Apr 22, 2020, 08:14 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

As police deploy drones and track the jungle trail of the mob that lynched three last week, the women of Palghar village have been confined indoors.

Using drones, police find the routes the tribals took to go into hiding. Pic/Hanif Patel
Using drones, police find the routes the tribals took to go into hiding. Pic/Hanif Patel

Armed with weapons and drones, 150 cops are hunting for hundreds of tribals who have gone into hiding in the dense forest and mountains after lynching two priests and their driver in Palghar on Thursday. Except a handful of women, almost everyone from nearly 500 houses in Gadchinchale village, where the incident occurred, are on the run.

The drones have recorded footage of the routes they took to go into hiding in the dense forest and the mountainous terrain. "It was an arduous task to search for the absconding tribals in the hilly region. So, we took the help of drone cameras and traced them. Leftover food, empty water bottles, clothes, etc, were seen in the footage, indicating that the tribals took this route," Palghar district Superintendent of Police Gaurav Singh told mid-day.

Singh, Inspector General, Konkan Range, Niket Kaushik along with 150 troops of the Kasa police station and State Police Reserve Force (SRPF) have set up camps at Gadchinchle village. The police officers conducted surveillance of the mountains and the nearby areas the entire day. The flying capacity of each drone is 20 minutes and the cops are carrying additional batteries for back up.

Police patrol in Gadchinchle village where two priests and their driver were lynched. Pic/Hanif Patel
Police patrol in Gadchinchle village where two priests and their driver were lynched. Pic/Hanif Patel

The spot where the mob lynched priests Shushil Giri, 35 and Chikne Maharaj, 70, and driver Nilesh Tilghate, 30, is a no-network zone. The CRPF jawans requested the Palghar police control room to get them 10 sets of walkie-talkie for patrolling.

There are nearly 500 houses in Gadchinchale village and when a mid-day team visited the area on Tuesday, they found almost all the huts empty. Almost all of them have fled, except a handful of women who claimed to have no knowledge of the whereabouts of the men in their family. The local shops were shut as well.

There is no one to even conduct the last rites of the deceased villagers. Local leader Kashinath Choudhary, who helped cops reach the spot on the dreadful night, told mid-day that a couple of days back two elderly people had died, but there was no one at their houses." "I took the help of people from another village and informed the Kasa police so that we could conduct their last rites," said Choudhary, adding, "None of the villagers are reachable; either their phones are switched off or they are in no-network zones."

Sources in the police told mid-day some of the absconding tribals are hiding in their relatives' homes in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which is hardly a few hundred metres away from the crime spot. "The chances of a few of them to have absconded to their relatives houses in Dadra and Nagar Haveli are very high. Our teams are conducting search operation with the help of local police," said the source.

Forensic samples collected
A team of Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratory (DFSL) also visited the spot on Tuesday to collect the samples like smashed eyeglasses of priests and from police vehicles that were damaged by the mob.

"These samples and their reports will be helpful for us to secure conviction in the case," said Assistant Police Inspector Siddhawa Jaybhaye, who took charge
of the Kasa police station on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the police have ruled out any communal angle into the matter.

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