Palghar lynching: 'Those lynched were carrying Rs 6 lakh cash, which is now missing'
Mourning their loss, relatives narrate how trio that mob killed on Thursday had raised cash for last rites and were heading to funeral of their spiritual guru in Surat
Sushil Giri, Chikne Maharaj, and Nilesh Tilghate had Rs 6 lakh cash on them when they were lynched on Thursday, but the money is missing, alleged the family and close associates of the deceased. A mob of 450 people from the tribal community in Palghar district had beaten the trio to death suspecting them to be thieves.
One of the followers of Giri, 35, told mid-day that he along with Kalpvriksha alias Chikne, 70, and Tilghate, 30, were going to Surat to attend the last rites of a priest, Ramgiri Maharaj, who had died on April 16. Giri was a disciple of Ramgiri, who was an ardent devotee of Chikne, he added. Because of their relationship, "Chikne Maharaj and Sushil Giri planned to attend the last rites of Ramgiri in Surat," said the follower, requesting anonymity.
Nilesh Tilghate and Sushil Giri
Diwakar, a priest at Pimpleshwar Mahadev Temple in Kandivli where Giri was the head priest, told mid-day that Giri’s followers had contributed the money for Ramgiri’s funeral. "He called several followers and collected nearly R6 lakh cash," he added. After collecting the money, they Giri left with Chikne and driver Tilghate.
"It seems that the tribals looted the cash and killed the trio mistaking them to be thieves, as only Rs 300 cash was recovered from the deceased," Diwakar said. Tilghate is survived by his wife Puja, mother Nirmala and two daughters — Sanika, 5, and Shalini, 7. "He was the breadwinner. My father-in-law passed away a few months back and the condition of my mother-in-law is very bad," Puja said.
Tilghate's wife Pooja (left) mother Nirmala and the daughters at their residence in Ganganagar, Kandivli. Pic/Satej Shinde
Tilghate’s brother Jayesh, an auto rickshaw driver, said, "He was killed in the presence of police. I have seen the videos in which cops are seen standing there helplessly."
Chikne Maharaj was the head priest of Dakshinmukhi Hanuman Temple, Nashik, said his disciple Talkeshwar Choubey. "He would visit Mumbai twice a year to conduct puja during Navratra. This time, too, he had come to Mumbai and got stuck due to the lockdown. He was staying in this temple with me," said Choubey, the head priest of Vandevi temple, Jogeshwari.
"On April 16, he left the temple at 3pm and reached Kandivali to go to Surat to attend the Samadhi ritual of Ramgiri Maharaj. I was in constant touch with him on phone. Their car was first stopped by cops at Chinchoti Naka on Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway and was returned. They changed their route and took Wada Road which leads to Jawahar to connect Sylvasa," said Choubey.
"At 7pm, Chikne Maharaj had called me and asked to not perform any puja at my temple as the Maharaj in Surat has passed away. Later, I called him at 9pm to know if he was stopped by cops en route Surat but the call went unanswered," he recalled.
"Next morning I called him at 5 am but his cell phone was switched off. I thought he must be tired and taking rest. But I received a call of a priest from Indore and he told me that Chikne Maharaj has been killed in Palghar district. I was shocked," he added. The bodies of the trio were handed over to the relatives on Friday. The last rites of the driver was conducted in Mumbai while the bodies of both the priests were transported in ambulance to Trimbak in Nashik where they were given Samadhi on Saturday night.
A narrow escape
A cab driver, Ravindra Tondgare, had first received a call from Ramgiri Maharaj’s ashram in Surat to drive both the priests to Gujarat. " I received a call from Surat as Giri’s number was not reachable. But I was stuck at my sister’s place in Thane, so I asked my childhood friend Nilesh to go and he agreed as he was sitting idle at home due to the lockdown. I never knew that he will meet this tragic end," he said.
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