Palghar lynching: More voices in support of cops
Meanwhile, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh releases names of all those arrested to shut down communal hate-mongering.
In more support for the suspended Kasa police officers, the sarpanch of Gadchinchale village and an office-bearer of the local zilla parishad have said that the cops saved their lives as the frenzied mob refused to listen to anyone on April 16 in Palghar. Meanwhile, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh tweeted a list of the names of 101 arrested accused, "especially for those trying to make it a communal issue". None in the list are Muslims.
The police officers had asked the chairman of the Zilla Parishad's working committee, Kashinath Choudhary, and Sarpanch Chitra Choudhary, known faces in the area, to help calm the mob that allegedly lynched two priests and their driver on April 16.
Forensic experts test material escaping villagers left on the road
Choudhary told mid-day that the mob was uncontrollable and she too was being stoned to death had Police Sub Inspector (PSI) Sudhir Katare and Assistant Police Inspector (API) Anandrao Kale not saved her.
"There was a huge mob on Thursday night. I went to the spot, 200 metres away from my residence, after the forest officer called me around 7 pm. Along with other sensible people, I had been trying to convince the mob but they were not ready to listen. We handled the situation for three hours before a team from Kasa police reached the spot around 11 pm," said Choudhary, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Victims Sushil Giri, Chikne Maharaj and Nilesh Tilghate. Pics/Hanif Patel
"Had the police not reached then, I too would have been killed. My vehicle was damaged by the stones the mob pelted," she added.
Kashinath's vehicle too was damaged. "I too was threatened by the mob. They asked me and my supporters to go away. They were baying for blood. So I advised the police to react tactfully but they too were attacked," Kashinath said.
Both Katare and Kale had tried their best to rescue the victims, Chikne Maharaj, Sushil Giri and their driver Nilesh Tilghate.
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told mid-day, "As per our report, there were initially 400-500 people and the police tried to manage the mob. The two officers have been suspended pending an enquiry because they failed to protect the three men.
"I don't know what the sarpanch has said but we will record her statement to understand what exactly happened as she too is an eyewitness and one would be able to better understand the situation on the ground. If indeed they saved her life, it will be considered in the probe."
Mob blocked roads
The distance between the spot and Kasa police station is around 45 km. "After gheraoing the trio, the mob had blocked the hilly, serpentine road with stones and tree branches at every 400 metres," said Choudhary. The police team reached the spot with Kashinath's help in clearing the road.
"My vehicle was stopped by a group of men mid-way. I made an announcement using the wireless system attached to the police van and told the mob to go away. But more than 300 people surrounded my vehicle. Most of them were drunk on toddy (palm wine). They were not ready to listen to us," recalled API Kale.
"It was not feasible for us to open fire. The situation was really different. Had we opened fire, the frenzied mob would have stoned us to death. They were also armed with sickles, heavy tree branches, bamboo sticks and iron rods," said Kale, who added that the "mentality of a frenzied mob was worse than that of Naxals."
'Sarpanch knows the mob'
Sources at Palghar police told mid-day that Choudhary recognises all the people present in the mob. "But when we asked her to give names of all those who were a part of the lynching, she simply denied saying 'there were many people…can't recall their names'," said the source.
Responding to the claim, Chitra said, "A lot of people from nearby villages had gathered at the spot. I am not sure if they had come to kill the trio or just to witness what's going on." Meanwhile, PSI Katare said, "The trio was killed because they were mistaken as child-lifters. We told them that we will take them to the police station and take legal action, but the thickheaded mob did not heed to our words and attacked us inside the forest department chowkie. They rained stones from different corners and damaged the glass windows," recalled Katare, whose uniform was torn amid the violence.
Kasa police asked for reinforcements as the situation was beyond their control but the additional personnel too were stopped by another group that attacked them. Additional Superintendent of Palghar division Vikrant Deshmukh and his team too had a narrow escape.
7pm Time sarpanch was informed of the mob on April 16
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