Palghar has been in the spotlight for almost the past one month for all the wrong reasons after a barbaric incident, in which two Juna Akhara Sadhus- Chikane Maharaj Kalpavrikshgiri (70) and Sushil Giri Maharaj (35), and their driver Nilesh Telgane (35) were lynched to death by a bloodthirsty, 200-strong mob.
Now, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government is drawing flak over certain recent incidents- compulsory leave for the Palghar Superintendent of Police (SP) and a fatal accident which caused the death of a lawyer representing the Sadhus on Wednesday.
The Palghar SP was sent on compulsory leave recently, and the Maharashtra Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh had said, “I visited the village on Thursday and spoke to locals, elected representatives, and senior police officials who were accompanying me. We have decided to send the Palghar SP on compulsory leave.”
But less than a week after the Palghar SP Gaurav Singh was sent on compulsory leave, locals in the area have lodged protest against the move starting an online campaign to bring him back. The online campaign to bring back the IPS officer has been launched by two individuals- Sujit Singh, a gymnasium owner in Palghar and Karan Chaudhary, a social activist. They argue that SP Gaurav Singh has been instrumental in ridding the district of criminal elements, cracking down on illegal activities like sand mining, gutka and liquor mafias, and also creating a strong police-citizen bond.
Asif Dhanani, an Advocate who has signed the online petition, said, “We have personally brought to his notice several issues of our district and the ‘super cop’ expeditiously took action, thus winning the hearts of Palghar residents.”
The government action against the Palghar SP has therefore not been received well by the locals in the district.
Meanwhile, another incident that took place on Wednesday has sent shockwaves on social media. Advocate Digvijay Trivedi, a junior lawyer representing the Sadhus in the Palghar lynching case along with the main counsel Advocate PN Ojha, died in a road accident.
The fatal accident took place when he was en route his way to the Dahanu Court to join Advocate PN Ojha. Trivedi’s co-passenger and colleague Preeti Trivedi too is seriously injured and hospitalised.
Late Digvijay Trivedi and Co-Counsel Preeti Trivedi were travelling in a four wheeler being driven by him on NH 48. Prima facie he unfortunately lost control of the vehicle and they met with an accident. Preeti Trivedi is injured seriously & has been hospitalised. https://t.co/mqDnHc3czr
— Palghar Police (@Palghar_Police) May 14, 2020
The police has ruled out foul play saying, “Prima facie he unfortunately lost control of the vehicle and they met with an accident.”
The Indian Express has quoted Siddhva Jaybhaye, Assistant Police Inspector, Kasa police station as saying, “…The deceased was speeding and lost control of the vehicle. There are skid marks on the road indicating that he tried to bring the car under control.”
But questions are being raised on social media, and its timing is being described as mysterious. Abhijit Iyer-Mitra tweeted, “They kill the sadhus & then they kill the lawyer. They see foul play in the death of Justice Loya, but none in a sequence of unnatural deaths in the #PalgharLynching case.”
They kill the sadhus & then they kill the lawyer. They see foul play in the death of Justice Loya, but none in a sequence of unnatural deaths in the #PalgharLynching case #palgharcoverup https://t.co/SHrpvDZXNc
— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) May 14, 2020
Shefali Vaidya also raised apprehensions of foul-play, and tweeted, “Pics of the car in which Adv. Digvijay Trivedi was traveling. Adv. Trivedi was representing the two Hindu Sadhus and their driver kiIIed in the #PalgharMobLynching case. Reports say he lost control of the car and it overturned, judge for yourself.”
Pics of the car in which Adv. Digvijay Trivedi was traveling. Adv. Trivedi was representing the two Hindu Sadhus and their driver kiIIed in the #PalgharMobLynching case. Reports say he lost control of the car and it overturned, judge for yourself. pic.twitter.com/sW8BJJcYNI
— Shefali Vaidya. (@ShefVaidya) May 15, 2020
Meanwhile, Advocate PN Ojha said, “I cannot say anything regarding the accident, whether there was any foul play or not. He was a junior lawyer and wanted to learn. So, I had allowed him to join me in this case. We will have to wait for the inspection report from the RTO to know the exact cause of the accident. There was no one present at the spot when the accident happened so the RTO inspection report can give a clear idea on what actually happened.”
This brings to light how there is no eye-witness of the road accident, except of course the co-passenger who is herself injured and hospitalised, and has therefore not spoken up till now. The police will take her statement once she recovers, and as of now the police has dismissed foul-play only on the basis of “skid marks”.
A case of accidental death has been registered by the police, and Palghar Police also mentioned “prima facie” in its tweet about the incident.
Questions are however bound to be raised until the police comes up with a conclusive report and the co-passenger too narrates how the accident unfolded. The timing of the accident gives it a mysterious context, and on top of that the accident happened in an isolated place without any eyewitness. Social media is ripe with questions about whether it is an accidental death or a sinister conspiracy.
The controversy around sending the SP on compulsory leave and the accident of a lawyer while he was on his way to the Dahanu Court to attend the remand proceedings of six arrested accused have once again brought Palghar under spotlight.
This time with a pertinent question from several quarters on social media- is a horrible crime story being written in Maharashtra’s Palghar?