Palghar lynching: 'Not the first mob attack in Gadchinchale village', claim sources

Updated: May 01, 2020, 07:40 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Say sources, claim large group of people attacked forest officials and SRPF staff in 1998 when they were acting against timber smugglers

The accused were produced at Dahanu Magistrate court on Thursday
The accused were produced at Dahanu Magistrate court on Thursday

The police remand of the 101 accused arrested in the barbaric killing of two priests and their cab driver in Palghar district last month, was extended for another 14 days on Thursday in connection with the attack on police officers on April 16.

They were produced before the Dahanu Magistrate court in the afternoon as their police remand expired on Thursday. Magistrate O B Kulkarni sent all the accused to additional police remand of 14 days. They have been charged with attempt to murder for attacking the cops while they were headed to the lynching site.

Lawyers headed by advocate Parmanand Ojha appeared before the court on behalf of deceased Chikne Maharaj, 70, Sushil Giri, 35, and driver Nilesh Tilghate, 30.

The police had on April 17 apprehended 110 people and arrested 101 of them, and sent them in police remand in connection with the murder of the three men. The nine other accused are juvenile and currently at Bhiwandi juvenile home. "Since the 14-day police remand ended on Thursday, I requested the court not to grant them bail instead send them into judicial custody," said Ojha.

Police search for others involved in the lynching at Gadchinchale village. FILE PIC
Police search for others involved in the lynching at Gadchinchale village. File pic

The CID officials requested that the accused be sent to police remand for the murder attempt on cops and obstructing the work of police officials. None of the advocates appeared on behalf of the accused.

Advocate Ojha alleged that the trio became victims of a huge conspiracy against them. "There was no rumour before the incident and the priests and the driver were well aware of the internal routes to Gujarat from Mumbai. But their vehicle was turned back at a check post bordering with Dadra and Nagar Haveli," he said.

But crucial eye-witness Sonudaji Borsa told mid-day that a rumour of a child lifting gang was doing the rounds of the village. "Two nights before the incident, people gathered at our forest check post and forced me to step out saying a child lifting gang was active in the area. People often used to shout 'chor ayaa, chor ayaa' unnecessarily to trigger panic among villagers who would gather in large numbers," Borsa said.

Not the first mob attack

Sources said incidents of villagers creating unrest to raise their voice against government officials are very common here. "In December 1998, a mob in Gadchinchale village attacked forest officials and a State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) team acting against timber smugglers. Two men were caught but they screamed for help and a large number of villagers surrounded the forest officials and SRPF personnel," said an officer from Palghar police. The mob assaulted the officials and snatched the rifle of SRPF constable Vikram Valvi.

One of the priests killed in the April 16 incident. FILE PIC
One of the priests killed in the April 16 incident. File pic

"Regional forest officer Digambar Manohar Dahibhavkar had registered an FIR against the mob at Kasa police station on December 22, 1998. Four people including Lohu Kanoja, Sonu Pilena, Tulja Pilena and Madu Kanoja were named in the FIR," said the officer. After the case was registered, all the villagers abandoned their homes just like they have done now. "The police later managed to arrest five absconders," said the officer. They also recovered the snatched rifle. "The four accused named in the FIR were arrested on August 9, 2012. Several accused are still at large," said the officer, adding that there have many such incidents that reveal the aggressive nature of Gadchinchale residents who have no fear of the law.

"The villagers clearly say 'yaha mehnat karke khana milta hai aur jail me bina mehnat ka' (here, we have to work for food, but in jail it's for free)," said the officer.

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