The 'gau rakshak' had terrorised the area with his activities, carrying out illegal raids on meat shops and creating communal tension in the area, say police
Nalasopara has heaved a big sigh of relief after the arrest of suspected Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut, who had allegedly terrorised his neighbourhood with his activities.
According to the police, Raut, who called himself a gau rakshak, has been involved in a series of attacks on butchers in the area every Bakri-eid. Raut allegedly tried to create communal tension, particularly in the neighbouring Sopara village, by harassing locals and carrying out illegal raids on mutton and beef shops.
Every year, the police would extern him from the area for short periods, by serving him notices under section 144 of the Mumbai Police Act; he, however, would stay put by bringing in political influence in the name of cow protection, said an officer, adding that even the police will breathe easy after his arrest.
Living in terror
Sopara village's Muslim community, especially the butchers, lived in fear and insecurity due to Raut's activities — even when beef hadn't been banned by the government, he would go around conducting 'raids' on meat shops and harassing the owners, said a local, Anis Qureshi. Speaking to mid-day, he added, "In 2014, Raut forcibly stopped my tempo in his area and assaulted the driver.
The driver called me and I went to the spot, but Raut and his colleague abused and assaulted me too, saying I was smuggling cow meat. They forcibly took me and my tempo to Nalasopara police station. I have never carried or supplied cow meat; after I showed all the relevant documents to the cops, they let me go and registered a case against Raut and his colleague.
"Large numbers of Muslims as well as gau rakshaks had gathered outside the police station that day... he had succeeded in creating communal tension; clashes could have erupted anytime. Huge police bandobast was then deployed in the area, for the first time in the history of Nalasopara."
"There are two cases of rioting and one of not following the district collector's order registered against Raut at Nalasopara police station. Since 2015, we have been serving him notices to leave the area during Bakri-eid to maintain law and order there," said Datta Totewar, SDPO, Nalasopara Division of Palghar district.