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Illegal liquor trade, not communal violence, suspected in lynching of 3 men in Palghar




Police vehicles damaged by the mob at Gadchinchale village | By special arrangement
Police vehicles damaged by the mob at Gadchinchale village | By special arrangement

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Palghar: There are no Muslims at Gadchinchale village in Maharashtra’s Palghar district, where two Hindu tribal ascetics and their driver were lynched last week while they were on their way to a funeral in neighbouring Silvassa.

Videos of the horrific crime have gone viral and allegations are being made that the killings were communal in nature. But sources in the area say that nearly all of the village’s 1,280 people are tribals — much like two of the three victims.

They also claim that the “illegal liquor economy” in the region could have played a part in the triple murder that took place on Thursday, 16 April, even as police investigate the crime committed during the coronavirus lockdown.

“All the residents here are Scheduled Tribes. A majority have converted to Christianity but they follow their tribal rituals,” said a source conversant with the customs of Gadchinchale. “Since this is a far-flung village, Christian missionaries come here and give them food and medicines. The rule has been that these villagers don’t interfere with anyone and don’t let anyone else interfere in their customs and traditions.”

“These villagers do not have a lot of money, so what is it that thieves can take away? Due to the lockdown, the theft of liquor has increased. So they thought their hidden liquor was being stolen,” said the source, who is a resident of the nearby Kasa town.

Also read: Who is Vinay Dubey? The self-styled migrant mascot arrested for Bandra ruckus

The boot-legging economy

Poverty in Gadchinchale village and its location, sources said, have led to a thriving liquor trade in the region.

Nestled in lush greenery at the foothills of the Western Ghats, the village is the last post in Maharashtra before the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The village is also surrounded by Gujarat and Nashik on its farther sides.

While many of the villagers who have farmland in the foothills sow paddy and nachni (local name for ragi millet), the landless go to work in the numerous industrial units in nearby Dadra and Nagar Haveli. 

Since liquor is available in plenty and is cheap in the union territory, it is smuggled back into the village and hidden in the forests. This smuggled liquor is sold at a much higher price to liquor shops and individuals, the sources said. 

They also pointed to the sequence of events on the night of 16 April to substantiate the liquor theory. 

The three victims — ascetics Kalpvruksh Giri, 70, and Sushil Giri, 35, and their driver Nilesh Telgade, in his 30s — were headed to a funeral in Silvassa in a Ford EcoSport car.

Due to the national lockdown, the highway between Jawahar in Maharashtra’s Palghar district and Silvassa is blocked by police at various points. Their car was stopped by Dadra and Nagar Haveli police at the border and they were turned back.

On their return journey, they hit a dirt road that passed through the forest towards Gadchinchale village and were stopped by the forest guards. 

While they were being questioned by the forest guards, a small crowd had gathered around outside the forest post. 

The forest guards then called up the Kasa police post, about 40 km away, informing them about the sadhus and the people who had gathered outside. 

By the time the police arrived about an hour or so later, a sizeable mob had gathered outside the post demanding that those inside be handed over to them. Police are still investigating why a mob armed with lathis gathered outside the forest post late at night. 

As the police escorted the sadhus and their driver to the police van, the mob allegedly attacked them and lynched them. “The police ran away to their vehicle. A sizeable mob attacked the police van and damaged it. After the lynching, the mob ran away into the forest,” said the source. 

The outnumbered Kasa police had sought help but a 200-member strong police team from Palghar arrived hours after the crime. Palghar town is more than 100 km from the scene of the crime in Gadchinchale.  

Police vehicles damaged by the mob at Gadchinchale village | By special arrangement
The vehicle that the three men were travelling in | By special arrangement

A deserted town

Ever since the crime made national headlines, this tribal village dotted with hamlets of 10-12 houses known as padas, wears a deserted look.  

About 110 men have been arrested including nine juveniles who allegedly led the attack, said those in the know of the events. The men have been remanded in police custody until 30 April, while the juveniles have been sent to the Bhiwandi Correctional Home. 

Police have been deployed at Gadchinchale village since the lynching | By special arrangement
Police have been deployed at Gadchinchale village since the lynching | By special arrangement

The Kasa police who arrested the suspects said many men from the village have fled into the jungles leaving behind the women and children. Of the estimated 300-odd houses in the padas, many of them are locked. 

The livestock consisting of goats and cows are tethered while multi-coloured hens and roosters roam around the padas. There is an air of disquiet and hostility in the village. Women and children look out through half-open doors of their mud houses with thatched roof. 

With the lynching resonating in the power corridors of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh — the two sadhus belong to the Varanasi-headquartered Shri Panch Dashnam Juna Akhara — Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered a probe by the state CID. The probe will be led by Director General of Police (CID) Atul Kulkarni.  

Two policemen, inspector Anandrao Kale and constable Sudhir Katare, have been suspended (pending inquiry) for dereliction of duty.  

Also read: Shock in Mumbai Police as ‘honest’ top cop gets blamed for Wadhawan family trip 

A BJP region

The BJP, which has tried to politicise and communalise the lynching, currently has control of the region that has traditionally leaned towards the communists. 

The village is part of Dahanu assembly constituency and Vinod Nikhole of the CPI(M) was its MLA until 2014. The constituency is now represented by the BJP’s Paskal Janya Dhanagare. 

The gram panchayat of Palghar is ruled by the BJP, and its sarpanch is Chitra Chaudhari.   

Dismissing the BJP’s allegations, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has appealed to the people to not get taken by the communal allegations. “We have not spared the guilty. They have been arrested and remanded in police custody until 30 April. The juvenile offenders among them have been sent to Children’s Home. The DGP CID led by an able officer Atul Kulkarni will probe this murder,” Thackeray said, addressing the state via Facebook Live. 

The CM also said Union Home Minister Amit Shah had called him and he had apprised him of the action taken by the Maharashtra government. “Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath too had called me seeking to know the action taken. I have told Amit Bhai and Yogi about the CID probe and the suspension of two policemen,” said Thackeray. 

Also read: Uddhav Thackeray has failed to handle Covid crisis. Bring in Army to save Mumbai



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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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