Monday, January 31, 2011

‘Sonawane drove Popat to murder’

DEBT LINE: The bungalow Popat Shinde built in Manmad with the help of loans from a few sources, including a bank


Mateen Hafeez and Prafulla Marpakwar TNN


Mumbai: The arrested family members of Popat Shinde, the prime accused in the murder of additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane, have alleged that the official had been constantly harassing Popat for hafta, which was why the oil pilferer finally got frustrated and killed Sonawane. Popat’s son Vikas Shinde, 19, and son-in-law Deepak Borse have told the police that Popat was under severe mental stress as he could not come up with the bribe money and his wife, who had recently died, had been ailing. Popat had also taken a huge loan for a house that he reportedly was thinking of selling.

Popat’s other son Kunal, 17, made similar statements to the police, but sensationally added that Popat, who is in hospital with 75% burns, burnt himself, while he (Kunal ) burnt Sonawane.

Manmad police said they are looking into the bribery claims. Home minister R R Patil said, “We are probing the entire case at a higher level.”


Lens on hafta claims in oil killing

Cops Probe Statements That Sonawane Was In Panewadi To Seek Bribe

Mumbai: Senior police officials said they have begun probing the contradictory statements made in the case involving the burning alive of additional collector (Nashik) Yeshwant Sonawane in Panewadi near Manmad on January 25. Those arrested for killing Sonawane have alleged to the police that Sonawane was in Panewadi to demand a bribe from Popat Shinde, the main accused in the murder case.

Earlier, the complainants in the FIR, Sonawane’s PA Raju Kale and driver Kailash Gawli had said that Sonawane was conducting a raid on oil pilferers when he was murdered by the oil mafia. Officials interrogating the 10 arrested men and Popat, who is in J J Hospital with 75% burns, have said that they have alleged that Sonawane was repeatedly demanding bribes from Popat.

Most notably, Popat’s son Kunal Shinde, 17, who has been arrested, has deviated from the replies of the others and told police that Popat burnt himself in frustration after Sonawane’s demands for hafta, which led to an angry Kunal hitting and burning Sonawane. After Kunal’s sensational statement before the Manmad police, officials said they may ask for permission to do narco-analysis, liedetector and brain-mapping tests on Kunal to establish the truth.

A senior police official said nothing had been established as yet. “What Kunal told the police appears to be the defence’s line. Since he was arrested two days after the death of
Sonawane, his lawyers must have briefed him on what he should tell the police. We are probing all aspects,” he said.

Three of the 10 arrested men – Kunal, Vikas, 19, and Deepak Borse – are of Popat’s family. A Manmad police official clarified that the statements of the accused have not been finalized. “We have recorded statements from the 10 arrested men and Popat Shinde. But they are not complete versions. The interrogations are still ongoing,” said an officer involved in the probe.

Nashik superintendent of police Milind Bharambe said that since the case is sensitive and still under investigation, it is not appropriate to comment on Kunal’s statement. Home minister R R Patil said there is no need to take cognisance of statements made by the accused. “We are probing
the entire case at a higher level. In my opinion, no importance should be attached to the statements made by the accused,” he said.

A senior official said, “Now Sonawane is dead, while Popat is in critical condition and unable to speak. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to establish the charges against the additional collector.”

The arrested men have alleged to the police that Sonawane had demanded Rs 3 lakh as a bribe from Popat. They claimed that Rs 2 lakh was paid in two installments of Rs 1 lakh each. Popat then asked for more time to pay the rest, but Sonawane’s men kept asking for the money, the accused have told the police. Popat’s elder son Vikas told police that Sonawane threatened to file cases of oil theft and adulteration if he wasn’t paid. Deepak Borse, Popat’s son-in
law, has also reportedly told the police that his father-in-law faced constant demands for hafta.

Senior police officials in Manmad are shocked over the manner in which Sonawane was burnt. A veteran social worker said that both Sonawane and Popat were known to each other ever since Sonawane was posted in the area in 2003. In fact, the same year, when Popat purchased a house there, Sonawane was there for the house warming.

The rift between them reportedly grew after another oil gang stepped in to take over the business in the Nashik-Manmad-Dhule belt. The cold war between Sonawane and Popat reached its peak when Popat complained to the ACB, which attempted to trap the additional collector twice, on August 30 and 31. “After the traps failed, the district administration concen
trated on Popat’s illegal activities,” said an official.

Vikas has told police that his mother, Jijabai, was suffering from several ailments. While her health deteriorated, their father was upset. He told police that his father sold a plot of land to pay for his mother’s hospital expenses. Borse and Vikas said that Popat was nearly bankrupt. He had taken a loan from business friends and a bank to construct a bungalow. Popat was thinking of selling the bungalow, Vikas is learnt to have told the police.

Popat has told the police that he burnt Sonawane himself, which deviates from Kunal’s version. However, the FIR filed by Kale and Gawli corroborates with Popat’s version. Sources said the version of the other accused also matches Popat’s and the FIR’s versions.


JIGSAW OF EVIDENCE
On January 25, additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane was burnt alive by members of the oil mafia at Panewadi near Manmad. Here are the varying versions of those who filed the First Information Report and those who have been arrested:

THE FIR

Filed by Sonawane’s personal assistant Raju Kale and driver Kailash
Gawli with the Manmad police


1.30 pm:
Sonawane leaves Chandwad after controlling a protest by the Onion Exporters’ Association. Kale is also in the car driven by Gawli

2.00:
The three are passing through Panewadi when Sonawane spots a tanker behind Sagar Dhaba, which is owned by Popat Shinde. Sonawane asks Gawli to take the car to the dhaba. Sonawane spots oil being pilfered and asks the culprits to stop. He captures the goings-on on the video camera of his mobile phone. He calls a government official to inform him of the pilferage

2.05:
Popat’s employee Rajiv Shirsat calls Shinde to inform him about Sonawane’s arrival

2.20:
Popat and his sons, Kunal, 17, and Vikas, 19, and son inlaw, Deepak Borse, arrive at the spot.

2.30:
Popat and Sonawane engage in a heated argument that turns into a brawl. Kunal hits Sonawane with an iron rod. The other culprits beat up Kale and Gawli and ask them to leave. The duo escape in Sonawane’s official car. Popat pours kerosene from a container onto Sonawane and gets drenched in the process too. Popat sets Sonawane on fire and himself gets burnt. The culprits then rush Popat to a local hospital, leaving Sonawane struggling for his life

3.15:
Manmad police, after receiving information, reach the spot to find Sonawane’s charred body


INTERROGATION OF THE ACCUSED

Police say they are investigating the following allegations that the accused, including Popat Shinde, Vikas Shinde, Deepak Borse and the others, have made during their interrogations. The statements of the accused have not yet been finalized
Kunal Shinde, 17, is the only accused with a different version of how the incident ended

2.30 pm:
Sonawane insists on his hafta, while Popat promises to pay later. A frustrated Popat pours kerosene on himself and burns himself. Kunal gets angry, hits Sonawane with a rod, pours kerosene on the additional collector and sets him on fire

2.35:
Popat’s men rush him to a local hospital, leaving Sonawane behind
1 pm: Family members gather at Popat Shinde’s home in Manmad for rituals on the 10th day after the death of Popat’s wife, Jijabai

2.05: Popat receives a call from one of his employees about Sonawane’s arrival at Sagar Dhaba. An annoyed Popat leaves for Panewadi along with his sons and son in-law

2.20: Popat meets Sonawane and takes him aside to discuss something a few metres from the others. Sonawane demands hafta and the two get into an argument and start pushing each other around

2.30: An angry Kunal hits Sonawane with a rod, causing Sonawane to fall. Popat pours kerosene on Sonawane and some of it falls on himself. Popat sets Sonawane on fire and gets burnt himself

2.35: The men rush Popat to a local hospital, leaving Sonawane behind

Vikas Shinde


Deepak Borse



The times of India, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cops to re-create crime scene

File photo of Popat Shinde and wife Jijabai


‘Next 7 Days Crucial For Prime Accused’

Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: The Manmad police are planning to take all the 10 persons, who allegedly set additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane ablaze on January 25, to Panewadi to recreate the crime scene. Investigators said that this would help them to understand the role played by each of the accused.

On January 25, Sonawane spotted an oil tanker stationed behind Sagar Dhaba at Panewadi village near Manmad. He saw seven men pilfer
ing oil and started questioning them. The suspects called up their mentor, Popat Shinde, who reached the spot with his two sons, Kunal (17) and Vikas. An argument ensued. Kunal attacked Sonawane with an iron rod. Later, Shinde poured a can of kerosene on Sonawane and set him afire. Sonawane’s personal assistant and driver were with him, but fled the spot.

A burning Sonawane wrapped his arms around Shinde. “Shinde sustained 75% burn injuries and is being treated at J J Hospital. Kunal has been sent to a juvenile remand home. The other accused have told us how the events had unfolded, but we want to establish the exact sequence. For this, we plan to recreate the crime scene to ascertain the role played by each of the accused,” said an investigating officer.

Meanwhile, Shinde’s condition is said to be stable. “The next eight days are crucial for him. Firts, it a question of his survival and then recovery,” said Dr Ashok Rathod, acting dean of J J Hospital.


The Times of India, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bail hearing of Malegaon accused postponed


Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: A special court has adjourned till February 7 the hearing of the bail application of nine suspects arrested for the 2006 Malegaon serial bomb blasts.

The Muslim youths were arrested by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) for conspiracy and planting four RDX bombs in the town on September 8, 2006. But the suspects have all along maintained that they had no role in the blasts and were wrongly framed in the case.

After Swami Aseemanand’s confessional statement that a Hindu right wing group was involved in the blasts, the nine suspects approached the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (Mcoca) court seeking bail. “Based on Aseemanand’s confessional statement, the suspects filed the bail plea. The court has asked us to furnish a certified copy of the confession on February 7,” said advocate Mubin Solkar, who is representing the accused.

“Aseemanand in his confession states how the blast conspiracy was hatched and executed.
“We relied on the confession and submitted a copy, which was available on the Internet. But the court asked us to furnish a certified copy of the confession.”

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a reply in the Mcoca court on Friday, saying that in view of Aseemanand’s confession, the bureau was furthering the investigation after obtaining permission from the court.

“The (nine) accused have not put forward any valid ground for consideration of their bail application and thus it deserves to be rejected,” the CBI said in its reply, adding that it needs more time to investigate the case.

Gulzar Azmi, secretary, legal cell, Jamiat-ul-Ulema, said the organisation was representing the nine accused in the case. “They have been wrongly implicated. We are hoping for speedy bail.”


The Times of India, January 29, 2011

Sagar Dhaba where additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane was burnt alive

Dhabas are hubs for pilferage, adulteration


Mateen Hafeez TNN

Manmad: The killing of Malegaon additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane near Manmad has exposed the ugly business of the oil mafia and its operations at dhabas along highways. Police sources said the dhabas are hubs for oil pilferage on the Nashik-Dhule stretch.

Sonawane was burnt alive by the oil mafia after he objected to pilferage on January 25. “Most policemen, revenue officials and bureaucrats know the dhabas are hubs for pilferage and adulteration. However, no one is willing to take action since the authorities are bribed for their inaction,” a senior police officer who is part of the Sonawane case probe said.

Dhabas at Nandgaon, Chandvad, Malegaon, Satana, Dhule, Erandole, Pachora and Igatpuri are the main centres for pilferage. “Everyone knows about the activities but no one is bothered to take action,” said a dhaba owner.


“Most families eat in restaurants but truck and bus drivers, along with cleaners, prefer dhabas, which have huge parking space. You can park for more than three hours, which is enough for the mafia to operate,” a source said. Some dhaba owners also get a “cut” (commission), he added.


“Dhabas are the most convenient places for pilferage. If someone stops an oil tanker on the highway for pilferage, there is a risk of being spotted by passersby. The oil mafia therefore prefers dhabas for such activities,” a source said.

“The dhabas have a lot of space in the front and at the back too. Several truck and tanker owners park at the back so that they cannot be spotted from the highway,’’ sources said. However, it is not certain if the dhaba owners know about the activities and ignore them.

After filling oil, when a tanker leaves a depot, a key is kept at the filling station and another is in the possession of the authorities at the receiving end. However, those who possess the keys are reportedly hand-in-glove with the oil mafia. “The mafia prepares duplicate keys to open containers. They also bring new seals, which are inside the container. Once a seal is broken to pilfer oil, a new one is put to avoid suspicion,” the sources said.

2 lakh litres seized in Kurla alone

S Ahmed Ali TNN

Mumbai: The city crime branch made at least six raids against the oil mafia in Mumbai over the past two days, with around 1,200 drums, containing 2 lakh litres of adulterated petrol, diesel, kerosene and furnace oil, seized in Kurla alone. The seizure was worth Rs 65 lakh. Though police have arrested Abdul Gaffar Hasan, 55, the kingpin of the oil mafia in the city, around a dozen others who worked under him are wanted. Sohrab Hussain and Aminbhai are among the major racketeers who have gone underground, said investigators.

The raids are part of the statewide drive against the oil mafia following the murder of additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane on Tuesday. Home minister R R Patil has come down heavily on the oil mafia and asked the police to crack down on it.

The crime branch raided Ha
san’s godowns in Panama Compound at Chunnabhatti in Kurla and seized 800 drums of adulterated oil. On Friday morning, the crime branch made more raids in the same locality and seized 435 drums of adulterated oil from two godowns belonging to Sohrab and Aminbhai. “As the workers fled and locked the doors, we had no option but to officially break the locks,” said joint commissioner of police (crime) Himanshu Roy. Adulterated furnace oil, black oil, kerosene, diesel, caustic soda, artificial colours, carbon oil and empty drums have been seized.

Hasan has been booked under IPC Section 420 for cheating, the Essential Commodities Act and other laws. He will be produced in court on Saturday. Police have launched a manhunt for the others.

Meanwhile, the Vakola police also carried out raids. They raided a godown in Shastri Nagar in Kalina and seized 20,000 litres of adulterated oil belong
ing to one Sahebrao Shaikh.

The modus operandi was to collect oil from industrial waste or fuel thrown from vehicles and ships. “The mafia processed the adulterated oil and upgraded it. Depending on the availa
bility of resources, the accused made either diesel, furnace oil or grease and sold it at cheap rates. Autos, taxis, cheap trucks and small entrepreneurs bought it. If such oil is used, it can cause major damage or freeze engines,” said Roy.

Patil has asked Roy to intensify the crackdown on the oil mafia in the city. Patil said, “When Roy told me that oil was brought in through shipping companies, I directed police to take stern action against customs officials, as without inside support smuggling is not possible,” the home minister said. “I have instructed the police to seal petrol pumps that indulge in buying and selling smuggled diesel or oil.”

On the Sonawane case, Patil said, “RPI leader Ramdas Athavale has demanded a CBI probe. But I think the case should be given to the CBI only if the Sonawane family wants it.”
-- With inputs from Sanjeev Shivadekar


Onus on DCPs, SPs
S tate home minister R R Patil has said that if any oil mafias are found active, then the concerned deputy commissioner of police in urban areas or superintendent of police in rural areas will be suspended. “The aim is to fix responsibility on a senior person,” he said. He also urged civilians to come forward and inform about any illegal or suspicious activity in their areas. “The name of the informer will not be disclosed. Also, the informer will be rewarded,” Patil said. Meanwhile, state chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad has assured “full” security to officials conducting raids. tnn


SLIPPERY BUSINESS: Police officials are seen during raids at illegal fuel depots in Vakola in the city on Friday


Shinde alleged bribe in bid to fix Sonawane

Prafulla Marpakwar TNN

Mumbai: Tuesday was not the first time that Popat Shinde, the main accused in the murder of additional collector (Nashik) Yeshwant Sonawane, had targeted the government official. Shinde had complained to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) five months ago that Sonawane was seeking a bribe from him. However, Shinde had to withdraw the complaint after two attempts to trap Sonawane failed.

Sonawane was burnt alive on Tuesday by the oil mafia in Panewadi, near Manmad. Shinde, who is in JJ Hospital with 75% burns, is the main accused in the case, while 10 others have also been arrested.


As additional collector based in Malegaon, Sonawane was in charge of the food and civil supplies wing of the Nashik region and a common target of the oil mafia in the Manmad-Dhule belt. A top bureaucrat said that Shinde’s tanker had been seized by the flying squad of the Nashik food and civil supplies department in May 2010 after it was determined that Shinde was involved in the theft of petrol, diesel and kerosene.

An offence under the Essential Commodities Act was registered against Shinde in Manmad. Under the act, all appeals are heard by the additional collector, in this case Sonawane.


Case closed for the ACB


After hearing Shinde’s plea for his tanker to be released, Sonawane said it would be possible only if he submitted a bank guarantee. “Sonawane’s observations were clear. If Shinde was keen on securing his tanker, he should have submitted a bank guarantee, which is a routine practice,” said the bureaucrat.

Shinde then approached the Nashik ACB in the last week of August 2010. He complained that Sonawane was harassing him and demanding a bribe for the release of the tanker. The ACB, along with witnesses, then tried to trap Sonawane twice. Officers visited Sonawane’s office on August 30, but he was not there. Another attempt was made the next day, but again the additional collector was not present in office. “ACB officials visited the additional collector’s office for verification on two occasions, but since he was not there no confirmation could be made on whether Shinde’s complaint was true or false,” said the bureaucrat.

Shinde went to the ACB on September 2 and submitted an application to unconditionally withdraw his complaint. “For the ACB, since Shinde withdrew his complaint, the case stands closed,” the bureaucrat said. A few days before Shinde submitted his application to withdraw his complaint, his tanker had been released in a routine matter after he completed the formalities prescribed by the food and civil supplies department, including getting the bank guarantee.


Yeshwant Sonawane

The Times of India, January 29, 2011

AIDES CALL IN SICK

TWISTS IN THE TALE: Yeshwant Sonawane’s weeping PA Raju Kale (face covered by white kerchief) and stunned driver Kailash Gawli (below hotel sign) in a room inside the Sagar dhaba after the killing on January 25

Following Allegations Of Bribery, Sonawane’s Driver And Personal Assistant Get Themselves Admitted To Hospital

Mateen Hafeez TNN

Manmad (Nashik): The aides of additional collector (Nashik) Yeshwant Sonawane, who was burnt alive in Panewadi on Tuesday, have proceeded on sick leave following allegations that they had been accepting bribes from the oil mafia.
The men arrested for Sonawane’s murder have reportedly told the police that Sonawane’s personal assistant (PA) Raju Kale and driver Kailash Gawli were each

accepting Rs 2,000 per month from the oil mafia.
Ten men have been arrested for burning alive Sonawane on Tuesday at Panewadi near Manmad. A 11th man, the main accused, Popat Shinde, is in critical condition with 75% burns at J J Hospital, Mumbai.
Kale and Gawli are both complainants and the prime witnesses in the case. While Kale has been admitted to a Pune hospital, Gawli is under observation in a Malegaon hospital. “Kale complained of chest pain and
severe depression, so we admitted him to hospital,” said a woman from Kale’s family. Gawli’s family members said that he has been shocked since the incident and has not been eating properly.
Kale’s and Gawli’s family members said on Friday that the two men would be standing by the statements they have given to the police. “They will not retract anything,” one person, who did not wish to be named, said. The two men have told the police that they were also
beaten up by the suspects and had to run to save their lives. They drove Sonawane’s car to the Nandgaon tehsildar’s office and informed the police, who reached the spot in halfan-hour.
More than 20 litres
of kerosene were used
to burn Sonawane alive.
The fuel was pilfered just a day before the killing, the accused have revealed during the interrogation. All the accused belong to Manmad and neighbouring villages.
“During the interrogation, they said that the kerosene used to burn Sonawane was pilfered from a tanker a day before the incident. Such pilfered kerosene is sold at a cheaper price to eating houses and restaurants in and around Manmad,” said an officer involved in the investigation.
Sonawane was on his way from Chandwad taluka to Nandgaon when he spot
ted an oil tanker stationed behind Sagar Dhaba at Panewadi village near Manmad. Sonawane reached the spot along with Kale and Gawli. He saw men pilfering kerosene from the tanker. “When he questioned them, the men called the prime suspect, Popat Shinde, who reached the spot in 15 minutes. An argument turned into a nasty brawl. Shinde’s son, Kunal, 17, attacked Sonawane with an iron rod and, later, Shinde poured a can of kerosene on Sonawane and set him on fire,” said Rafeeque Shaikh, investigating officer at Manmad police station.
Shinde was involved in fuel pilferage for over 20 years. He built a bungalow on 2,000 sq ft 10 years ago at a cost of Rs 25 lakh. The bungalow is located in Shravasti Nagar near Manmad railway junction. He was busy with the 10th-day rituals for his wife’s death when he was told about Sonawane’s arrival. Shnde has been booked nine times under the Essential Commodities Act. In 2006, he was externed from Manmad. Sonawane had lodged two complaints against Shinde. His truck was seized and when it was to be released on a court order, Sonawane had signed the papers.
Meanwhile, doctors at J J Hospital in Mumbai have said that Popat Shinde remains in critical condition with 75% burns. They said there has been no major change in Shinde’s condition for the past 48 hours.



Friday, January 28, 2011

STATE STAFF STOP WORK

A deserted government office on Thursday

Yogesh Naik, Nitin Yeshwantrao & Pradeep Gupta TNN

Mumbai: Over 15 lakh state government employees stopped work and organized morchas on Thursday to protest against the killing of additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane.

At Mantralaya, nearly 90% staff stayed off work and ministerial staff also participated in demonstrations.

G D Kulthe, general secretary, Maharashtra state gazetted officers’ federation, said there was an overwhelming response to the agitation. In the Mumbai city collectorate, officials locked up the office and protested. Unions in some government corporations did not get an intimation and could not organize a bandh. At the Mhada office in Bandra, nearly 80% employees participated in a gate meeting.

“We have not announced the protest as a strike but we are shunning work to register our protest against this gruesome act which has shaken government employees,” said Maharashtra Gazetted Officers Mahasangh president Ravindra Dhongade.

“We have asked colleagues to shun work. We are organizing morchas and rallies to protest the killing. Our colleagues will meet the district collector and regional commissioners and submit a memorandum against the incident,” he said.

GOVT BEGINS CRACKDOWN

Sanjeev Shivadekar & Yogesh Naik TNN

Mumbai: The state government has begun a crackdown on the adulteration mafia in the state, following Yeshwant Sonawane’s murder.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan called a meeting of officials at the state guesthouse Sahyadri on Wednesday and ordered the crackdown. On Thursday, chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad and director-general of police D Sivanandhan chalked out a strategy for action by the police and food and civil supplies department. The police arrested 163 people in the drive to unearth the oil mafia.

Food and civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh parried questions on why the raids had begun only after Sonawane’s murder. He claimed action was being taken against adulteration and pilferage, and circulated figures of 2008, 2009 and 2010 on action against hoarders.

The government directed the police to see if the culprits can be booked under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA).

In some places, adulterators fled hideouts and government sources said the action was cosmetic.

R R Patil, state home minister, said that within 48 hours of the incident, the police had arrested all accused in the case. “Despite this, if Sonawane’s family is unhappy, the department is ready to hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation,” Patil said in reply to a demand from opposition parties.


Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan announced a crackdown on the oil mafia on Wednesday



BJP claims DF minister is supporting the fuel racket

Ambarish Mishra TNN

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combined is set to launch a frontal attack on the Congress-led Democratic Front (DF) government following the killing of additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane by the oil mafia in Manmad on Tuesday. Leader of the opposition and Maharashtra BJP leader Eknath Khadse on Thursday accused a senior DF minister of supporting the oil mafia in Nashik. “The mafia runs a multi-core adulteration racket without fear of the law. This cannot happen without the blessings of those in power,” Khadse told mediapersons.

BJP leader Vinod Tawde alleged on Thursday that the mafia has paid Rs 25 crore to a DF minister to make changes in a government resolution (GR) on furnace oil. The amendment made the mafia richer by several hundred crores, Tawde added. He said he would reveal the minister’s name if chief minister
Prithviraj Chavan sought details. “The opposition will start a crusade against the oil and sand mafia in Maharashtra. If the government fails to take action, opposition legislators will take the law into their own hands to end the mafia rule in the oil sector,” Tawde said.

Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray described Sonawane’s killing as “brutal, shocking and unfortunate.” At the Mantralaya, minister for food and civil supplies Anil Deshmukh said the centre had issued an order delicensing furnance oil.


The Times of India, January 28, 2011

No one dares complain against mafia

IN THE NET: The main accused Popat Shinde is critical with 70% burns


Mateen Hafeez & Prafulla Marpakwar TNN

Manmad (Nashik): The killing of Malegaon additional collector, Yeshwant Sonawane, has once again brought the ugly face of the oil mafia to light. Manmad city, with a population of around 1.5 lakh, is a prime centre for fuel pilferage and adulteration in Maharashtra.

Each oil pilferage gang has 10-15 persons, who attend to a tanker, pilfer oil, make a new seal and take care of any “untoward incident”. Each member is paid Rs 6,000-10,000 a month. All the gangs are well armed, said a local councilor.

The gangs have links with distributors in Dhule, Malegaon, Ahmednagar, Pune and Indore. “The oil mafia bosses are on good terms with law-enforcement agencies here,” said a resident. Fifty to 75 litres of oil is pilfered
from a tanker and sold in black. While the police take action against the rackets under various sections of the Essential Commodities Act, it has failed to deter the gangs. The prime accused in Tuesday’s incident, Popat Shinde, had been booked at least nine times.

Before Independence, a pipeline was set up from Mumbai to Manmad and oil would be distributed near Manmad railway station. Eight years
ago, distribution was shifted to Panewadi village, 10 km away, due to congestion and road-widening work. “The mafia has been active in the region for over 20 years. However, since distribution shifted, the seven to eight gangs have got more active,” said a local resident.

“It was difficult for them. They would operate at night as the distribution centre was in the heart of the city. Since it has been shifted, the gangs have become more aggressive, trying to outshine each other,” said another resident.

Petrol and diesel distribution for big companies like Bharat Petroleum, Indian Oil and Hindustan Petroleum is done from Manmad. “The gang, armed with lathis, wait for the tankers outside the village and pilfer the oil in less than an hour,” said a local witness, but no one dares complain.


The Times of India, January 28, 2011

HE WOULD HAVE TURNED 52 TODAY


VISITED BY SUDDEN GRIEF: Yeshwant Sonawane’s elder brother Shyam lights an incense stick in front of a photo of the additional collector in Nashik


Suspects Held For Burning Additional Collector Yeshwant Sonawane Say Personal Assistant, Driver Were On The Take


Mateen Hafeez TNN

Malegaon additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane was preparing to celebrate his 52nd birthday on January 28. His family had planned a dinner at their Nashik residence, but the local oil mafia burnt him to death in Manmad on Tuesday.

The youngest among six brothers and sisters, Sonawane was allotted official accommodation in Malegaon, while his family stayed at Welcome Apartments, General A K Vaidya Nagar, in central Nashik.

Hepreferredtostayoutof thelimelightand was too shy to celebrate his birthday but his family thought it was a good occasion for a gettogether. “While our family is spread across Nashik district, it was a good occasion for all of us to meet,” a relative said.

One of his two sons, Kunal, is a Class XI student in Pune, while his siblings are in various partsof Nashik,Krishna,Sonawane’snephew said. Sonawane came from a very poor family; while studying, he would work part-time as a salesman to support his father.

“He was very ambitious and wanted to become a good administrator,” said another relative.

Sonawane’s wife, Vijaya, a homemaker, was unaware about her husband’s death until 6 pm on Tuesday, four hours after the incident.


The Times of India, January 28, 2011

Shinde faces many cases, was externed


Prime Accused Popat Shinde



Prafulla Marpakwar & Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: Popat Shinde, a habitual oil pilferer, was involved in several cases of theft of petrol, diesel and kerosene between 2001 and 2010. Shinde has been booked under the Essential Commodities Act. “Chargesheets have been filed in all the cases,” said a senior IPS official, who added that the police are awaiting verdicts.

In fact, an order was passed for Shinde’s externment for one year from Nashik district on July 21, 2006. However, he filed an appeal before the principal secretary (appeals and security) on January 9, 2007, and the externment period was reduced from one year to six months on the grounds that there had been an earlier delay in processing the externment proposal.

The IPS official said the externment proceedings were initiated in 2005, but the final order was passed in July 2006. “Certainly, there was a delay in initiating externment proceedings against him and passing the final order. As a result, merely because of the delay, the externment period was reduced from one year to six months. We feel that it is high time the home department ensures that externment proceedings in sensitive cases are disposed of in a time-bound period,'' he said.

The first case under the Essential Commodities Act was registered against Shinde in 2001. Later, cases were registered against him in 2003, 2009 and 2010. “In the first case filed in 2001, the chargesheet has been filed before the court and we are expecting a court order,” said the IPS official.

A tanker was once seized from Shinde, but it was returned a year later with the approval of Yeshwant Sonawane, the additional collector who was burnt.

Originally from Solapur, Shinde migrated to Manmad in the 1980s. He worked as a porter at the Manmad railway junction and later got involved in oil theft. He formed his own gang and operated in Manmad, Nandgaon and Dhule. His two sons, Kunal and Vikas, joined him, according to Chandrashekhar Chawgule, Malegaon additional superintendent of police. Some local residents said Shinde paid protection money to policemen and other officials.

There are unconfirmed reports that Shinde had connections with a former Maharashtra minister. A section of residents said Shinde had been paying hafta to policemen and other administrative officers, but he was often raided on the instructions of one of his rivals. “He was raided several times in recent years. He had almost gone bankrupt and was highly frustrated,” said a resident.

Popat Shinde ‘critical’
The police transferred Popat Shinde (45), the main accused in the burning to death of additional collector Yashwant Sonawane near Manmad, to JJ Hospital in Byculla on Wednesday morning.
Shinde who sustained 70% burns has deep and superficial burns, JJ doctors said. He was admitted to the high-tech burns ward at the state government hospital at 7 am. He is said to be in a critical state because he has respiratory burns. TNN


The Times of India, January, 28, 2011

Accused had ‘complained’ of corrupt officials

GRUESOME SCENE: Authorities collect evidence from the spot where Sonawane was burnt near Sagar Dhaba in Panewadi near Manmad


Prafulla Marpakwar & Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: Popat Shinde, the main accused in the burning alive of additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane, had reportedly approached the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) between January 10 and 15 complaining that a section of government officials in the Manmad area were harassing him for bribes. An attempt was reportedly made to trap the officials, but did not succeed.

ACB acting director-general K Subramamanyam said he was not aware of any complaint by
Shinde, but a home department official said, “We too heard about Shinde’s complaint, but so far we have no information if he has made the complaint in writing or otherwise.”

Shinde, who is critical in J J Hospital with 70% burns, has reportedly spoken to the police. “Our information is that police officials spoke to Shinde, but the details are awaited,” said T P Lahane, J J dean.

Meanwhile, 11 people have been arrested for burning the Malegaon additional collector. Four of them are members of Shinde’s family.



‘AIDES TOOK BRIBES’

Mumbai: The men arrested for burning alive additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane have reportedly told the police that Sonawane’s personal assistant (PA) and driver were being bribed by the oil mafia. The accused reportedly told the police that PA Raju Kale and driver Kailash Gawli were each being paid Rs 2,000 every month. The duo would come to collect their hafta regularly. Kale and Gawli were with Sonawane on Tuesday when the murder occurred. They sped away with the car when Sonawane was attacked.

The murder happened between 2.15 pm and 2.30 pm at Panewadi village, 10 km from Manmad. Police said that Sonawane had gone to Chandwad taluka on Tuesday morning, where there was a protest by the Onion Exporters’ Association. After the protest, he was returning to Nandgaon for a meeting. As the 44-year-old bureaucrat was travelling down Panewadi’s main road, he spotted an oil tanker behind Sagar Dhaba, now a warehouse owned by Shinde, the main accused in the case. Sonawane stopped his car and saw kerosene being unloaded from a tanker and loaded into a truck. He began capturing the scene on his mobile phone’s video camera, but one man present called up Shinde to inform of him of the development. A heated argument turned into a nasty brawl. Shinde, who had been at home attending a ritual on the 10th day after his wife’s death, then arrived on a motorbike with his minor son Kunal.

There was an exchange of words during which Kunal allegedly hit Sonawane with an iron rod. When Sonawane fell, Popat told his employees to get kerosene, which they poured
on him. Kale and Gawli, who were also manhandled and drenched with kerosene, fled in the car. Sonawane was set on fire and the blaze spread to Popat, who had been also drenched.

Sub-inspector Kishore Kumar Pardesi said that Kale and Gawli reached the Nandgaon tehsildar’s office and informed him of the incident. Since Sagar Dhaba is owned by Popat, police went looking for him. They did not find him at his home, despite rituals for his wife’s death being in progress. When the police arrived at the warehouse, they found a badly burnt Sonawane lying nearby. Grass in a two-metre radius was charred around him. He was rushed to hospital.

Popat’s men had rushed him to a private hospital in Manmad and then to the Malegaon General Hospital. Later, he was shifted to Nashik Civil Hospital. After his health deteriorated, he was rushed to Mumbai’s JJ Hospital.

The police are now exploring if any employee of the oil firm whose oil was being transported was also involved. “It’s not easy for the driver and cleaner to make a duplicate key,” said an officer.


The Manmad police have arrested prime accused Popat Shinde, his minor son Kunal, 17, his son Vikas, 19, Ajay Sonawane, 25, Imran Khan, 25, Haqqani Khan, 49, Popat’s sonin-law Deepak Borse, 32, Popat’s employee Raju Shirsat, Macchindra Suradkar, Sitaram Bhalerao and Tausif Sheikh. Haqqani and Imran were the cleaner and driver of the tanker.

All the accused have been sent to police custody till February 8. They have been booked for murder under the Indian Penal Code and under various sections of the Essential Commodities Act. Eight of them were kept in a 10-by-10-square-foot lock-up of the Manmad police station on Thursday. When TOI visited the lock-up, two of them were sleeping under blankets and two others were sitting and talking. Four others were taken to court.

A shocked Manmad was fully shut down in protest on Thursday. The accused were picked up from Malegaon and Manmad on Tuesday itself. Thousands of people thronged the Manmad city court to get a glimpse of the culprits. Six accused, all handcuffed and tied with a single rope, were produced in a crowded courtroom on Wednesday afternoon. Public prosecutor Ajay Misar told the court that the authorities need the suspects’ custody to determine the fuel used in the killing and recover some weapons. “Some accused are yet to be traced,” Misar said.

The police have seized a motor bike, a diesel tanker, a Bagpiper bottle, oil drums, etc. Sonawane’s clothes, his burnt mobile phone and soil samples have been sent to the forensic laboratory for a chemical and soil analysis. On Wednesday, a team of forensic experts collected more samples from the crime scene.


The Times of India, January 28, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oil mafia burn addl collector alive

Additional collector for Nashik Yashwant Sonawane (L) grabbed one of his assailants when he was set on fire. Popat Shinde suffered 80% burns and was captured with 4 others


He Spotted Fuel Theft In Manmad, Tried To Stop It


Yogesh Naik & Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: An additional collector was burnt alive on Tuesday afternoon in Manmad, near Malegaon, when he tried to call other government officials to the scene of a fuel theft. The perpetrators doused Yashwant Sonawane (44) with kerosene and set him afire in a development that sent shockwaves across the state.

Sonawane was found dead in a field from severe burns. But before dying he clung on to one of his attackers, Popat Shinde, making it impossible for him to flee. Shinde sustained
80% burns and is critical. He has been arrested with four others.

The gruesome killing led to home minister R R Patil ordering an immediate crackdown on the fuel mafia
across the state. CM Prithviraj Chavan ordered an inquiry and announced Rs 25 lakh for the family, payment of the officer’s salary till retirement and other compensation. Furious gazetted officers plan a strike on Thursday. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar called it a blot on humanity.

Sonawane had gone to Chandvad, where farmers had been agitating, and was proceeding towards Nandgaon when he spotted kerosene pilferage at Panewadi village in Manmad taluka, said Nashik divisional commissioner Jayant Gaikwad. Major companies like HPCL, BPCL and IOC have depots in the area. When Sonawane saw kerosene being stolen from a tanker outside the shop of Popat Shinde, he shot of video on his cellphone and called local officials for a raid. Shinde’s servant heard Sonawane calling the officials and alerted his boss. Soon, Shinde’s accomplices accosted the officer and doused him with kerosene after a scuffle and set him on fire.


FUEL THEFT COMMON IN PANEWADI AREA


“Shinde arrived on the scene and got into a heated argument with Sonawane. Shinde’s son Kunal and other servants also reached the spot,” said Gaikwad. “There were two kerosene cans of 20 litres each at the scene. One of the assailants poured the contents of a can over Sonawane and set him ablaze. Sonawane at that point caught hold of Shinde, who sustained nearly 80% burns and is critical.”

The divisional commissioner said fuel pilferage is common in Panewadi village. The oil depots in the area supply fuel to nearly 12 districts in northern Maharashtra and Marathwada.


Gaikwad said Shinde had lost his wife just 10 days ago. “We are taken aback at how he could have committed such a gory crime while in grief,” said Gaikwad. The attacker had a criminal record and was externed once.

Sonawane’s cell phone, with the video, is now with the police. The tanker from which the kerosene was being pilfered has been seized.

Shinde, Sitaram Bhalerao,
Machhindra Sarvankar, Vikas Shinde and Raju Shirsat have been arrested. Kunal and Ajay Sonawane are wanted.

Nashik collector P Velarasu said Sonawane was low profile and hard-working. “Local police reached the spot within minutes of receiving information. But it was too late. Sonawane had already died,” said Velarasu.

The body was taken to Nashik where the last rites were performed later. A postmortem was conducted on Tuesday evening.

Sonawane is survived by his wife, who lives in Nashik, and two sons who study in Pune. Sonawane was a native of Dindori.


He had joined the government as deputy collector in 1994 and was expected to be absorbed into the IAS later.

Food and civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh, who is visiting Satara, said the government will unearth the adulteration racket. The CM asked revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat to reach the spot. Thorat said, “We will not hesitate to apply MCOCA against the culprits.”

Yashwant Sonawane, while driving through Panewadi, sees thieves stealing kerosene from a tanker
He begins shooting video footage on his cell and calls up local government officers to come for a raid
One of the thieves calls up his boss, Popat Shinde, who arrives and argues with Sonawane
Kerosene is poured on Sonawane, who is set ablaze. Sonawane grabs Shinde, who is also burnt. While Sonawane dies, Shinde is critical in hospital
Additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane was posted in Malegaon to help promote communal harmony there

The Times of India, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

‘CBI is toeing ATS line in blasts probe’


BEHIND BARS: Residents stage a demonstration against the arrest of Malegaon youths in the 2006 blasts


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: The special CBI team, camping in Malegaon to reinvestigate the 2006 blast case, has irked some residents who said the sleuths were not probing the “rightwing angle” as confessed by Swami Aseemanand.

The CBI team has reportedly asked the imam of a mosque why Muslims in Malegaon are suppo
rting SIMI members, who are allegedly responsible for the blasts.

The twist in the tale came after Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand (59) of the Shabridham Ashram told a magistrate that “his men” were involved in the blasts. Following that, the CBI filed an application in a special court in Mumbai, seeking permission for reinvestigation.

On September 8, 2006, four
RDX bombs planted on bicycles near a mosque at a cemetery in Mushawerat Chowk went off, killing 31 people and injuring 297. The Maharashtra ATS had then picked up nine youths and ever since, Malegaon residents have been protesting against the arrests.

A 10-member CBI team arrived in Malegaon on Wednesday. CBI officials met an imam and asked him to come to the government guesthouse in the Camp area for routine inquiry.

The CBI team asked the imam, “Why do people in Malegaon support the absconding SIMI youths who are responsible for the blasts?” The imam told the CBI that the residents did not agree that the arrested youths were behind the blasts. He reportedly asked, “When Aseemanand has confessed to his crime, why are you not investigating the case on those lines?”

Sources said after grilling the imam, the CBI team visited the residences of three wanted accused, Munawwar Hussain, Riyaz Arsalan and Ishtiyaque Ahmed. The officials asked their family members about their whereabouts. “Ask your children to surrender. It is better for them,” the team members told the families. The residents said that the CBI is retracing the ATS probe and not exploring the other side as confessed by Aseemanand.

M V Laad, who is part of the CBI team, refused to comment.


The Times of India, January 24, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Malad bag planter knew to make bombs

ONE MORE PERSON MAY BE INVOLVED


Mateen Hafeez & Nitasha Natu TNN


Mumbai: The police suspect that one more person may have been involved in the case where a bag of explosives was planted near a Malad garage to implicate its owners.

ATS informer Sajid Shaikh, who was arrested in the case, is believed to have the technical knowhow to build a bomb.

:“Shaikh had the technical know-how about explosives. A black powder recovered from him has been sent for chemical analysis to the state forensic laboratory, as it contains plastic explosives in small quantities. Each explosive was wrapped separately to avoid brush
ing into each other and causing a mishap,” an official said.

Officers also said that Maqsood Ahmed, who helped Shaikh procure the explosives from Malegaon, may be made an approver. Ahmed, a powerloom worker from Malegaon, was promised money to buy a new house and get his daughter married.

Mehmood and Irfana Khan from Malad had offered Shaikh Rs 1 lakh for planting explosives at a garage run by three brothers – Saleem, Haneef and Hafeez Khan. The siblings had a dispute with their brother Rasheed Khan and his son Imran, who signed a deal with Mehmood to sell off their ancestral property. Irfana and Mehmood both have lengthy criminal records. Irfana has four cases pending against her, while Mehmood has 16 cases, including kidnapping, murder and extortion, registered against him.


The Times of India, January 22, 2011

Accused who consumed poison in lock-up dies

CRIME BRANCH PROBE IS ON


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: The 21-year-old chain snatcher, who had consumed pesticide in the L T Marg police station’s lock-up on January 15, died in J J Hospital on Friday. The deceased, Shadab Khan’s family has alleged police brutality.

The custodial death case has been transferred to the city crime branch. “We did panchnama in the presence of a magistrate and are investigating the matter,” said a crime branch officer.

Khan is survived by his wife and two daughters. Shehzad Ghachi, another chain snatcher who too con
sumed pesticide with Khan, is undergoing treatment at JJ Hospital. His condition is said to be critical.

The duo consumed pesticide an hour before they were to be produced before a magistrate
“When an accused is transferred to a lock-up, he should be thoroughly frisked. How come the two accused managed to procure pesticide inside the lock-up?” said a crime branch officer.

The senior police officials at the LT Marg police station were tight-lipped about the case. Senior policemen held a meeting with assistant commissioner of police, Bapu Katakdound, on this issue. Katakdound will now probe how the two suspects managed to take the pesticide inside and whether they were tortured during the interrogation, said police sources.

Khan belonged to the Nagapda area. “On December 24, the Pydhonie police picked up the duo on charges of chain snatching. They seized Shaikh’s bike and framed them,” a relative of Khan said.


The Times of India, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

He got Kashmiri terrorists arrested


Police informer Sajid Shaikh


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: The arrest of antiterrorism squad (ATS) informer Sajid Shaikh has again brought the criminal activities of police informers to light. Shaikh has been arrested for collecting RDX particles, gun powder, chemicals and other material to make bomb and planting it in a garage to implicate the garage owner in Malad. Shaikh claimed he was responsible for the arrest of three Kashmiri militants in 2006.

While being questioned by the police, Shaikh said he was an informer for the Mumbai crime branch, ATS and the Intelligence Bureau. Shaikh, who originally hails from Malegaon, has been booked for ‘waging war against the nation’ and various acts of Explosives Act. He had taken a supari of Rs 1 lakh to implicate the three brothers in terror conspiracy case. However, an investigation by Pydhonie police in-charge Shamsher Pathan and his men have unraveled a terror plot hatched by the
ATS informer.

He came in touch with the ATS on January 6, 2006, when he had, for the first time, passed on information about three Kashmiri militants. The ATS had recovered 20 detonators, timers, circuits, gelatin sticks and several other bomb making material from them. The police said they were planning to carry out a terror strike in the city.

Speaking to TOI then, Shaikh had said, “I heard the terrorists chalking out a conspiracy in Secunderabad. I alerted the police and was also provided police protection since it involved terrorists who could have played with my life.” He said, “The ATS recovered Rs 84 lakh from a bag belonging to the terrorists and the officers usurped the entire money but did not show it in panchnama.”

The imam of a mosque was also arrested in the Kashmiris case. While the Imam was acquitted on January 14 last year, the three Kashmiris were convicted for seven years imprisonment. Shaikh, who has a shop in Malegaon, stated that he had joined Shiv Sena. There was no confirmation from Malegaon shakha.



The Times of India, January 21, 2011

ATS informer planted explosives at Malad

CRIME MOTIVE: ‘PROPERTY ROW’


Nitasha Natu & Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: An ATS informer has turned out to be the mastermind in the Malad case where explosives were found near a garage on Tuesday. Seven people, including a woman, have been arrested in the case where the motive was merely a property dispute. Stringent charges have been slapped against the accused including ‘waging war against the country’ and provisions of the Explosives Act.

Sajid Shaikh (29), the informer, was offered a contract of Rs 1 lakh by Mehmood Khan to implicate three brothers by planting explosives in their garage.

Sajid is a native of Malegaon from where he procured the explosives with the help of an associate, Maqsood Ahmed, and transported them to Mumbai. Maqsood, a powerloom worker, was promised money to buy a new house

and get his daughter married.

Malad resident Rasheed Khan has been embroiled in a dispute with his three siblings__Saleem, Hafeez and Haneef__over a property on Link Road. In October 2010, Rasheed struck a deal to sell off the property to a couple, Mehmood and Irfana Khan, for Rs 35 lakh.

On November 30, Rasheed and his son, Imran, accompanied Irfana and her husband to the property to hand over its possession to them. But, Rasheed’s three siblings landed at the site and had a fight with the others over the sale. They later registered a complaint of assault against Rasheed and Irfana, leading to their arrest.

An upset Irfana wanted to teach Rasheed's siblings a lesson. She invited Rasheed and Imran to her Malwani residence on December 31. She also summoned her brother, Shakeel Khan, and Sajid. They hatched a plot to implicate Saleem, Hafeez and Haneef by planting explosives in their garage.


“On January 16, Sajid and Maqsood procured gunpowder, a black powder, nails, two packets of ball bearings and three bottles of chemicals from a Malegaon market. Four per cent of the black powder comprises RDX, PEK and PETN,” said additional commissioner Ramrao Pawar.

The duo reached Mumbai the next day and stayed at Mehmood’s house. On January 18, Sajid, Maqsood, Mehmood and Imran went to the garage on two bikes. However, atea vendor spotted them leaving behind a bag at the garage.

Later, Rasheed’s siblings discovered the bag. But they dumped the bag in a creek.


Meanwhile, Sajid decided to use his contacts in the police force and get Rasheed’s siblings arrested. He called up a deputy commissioner and claimed that he had spotted weapons inside a mosque belonging to the Ahl-E-Hadees sect. He also claimed that he had been surveying the mosque for a fortnight. On January 18, he called the cops to inform that a suspicious bag was lying at a Malad garage.

The police could not find the bag in the garage, but it was located near the creek. “We questioned Sajid and Imran. Early on January 19, Imran broke down and confessed while Sajid took some time.”


The Times of India, January 21, 2011

ATS informer planted explosives at Malad

CRIME MOTIVE: ‘PROPERTY ROW’


Nitasha Natu & Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: An ATS informer has turned out to be the mastermind in the Malad case where explosives were found near a garage on Tuesday. Seven people, including a woman, have been arrested in the case where the motive was merely a property dispute. Stringent charges have been slapped against the accused including ‘waging war against the country’ and provisions of the Explosives Act.

Sajid Shaikh (29), the informer, was offered a contract of Rs 1 lakh by Mehmood Khan to implicate three brothers by planting explosives in their garage.

Sajid is a native of Malegaon from where he procured the explosives with the help of an associate, Maqsood Ahmed, and transported them to Mumbai. Maqsood, a powerloom worker, was promised money to buy a new house

and get his daughter married.

Malad resident Rasheed Khan has been embroiled in a dispute with his three siblings__Saleem, Hafeez and Haneef__over a property on Link Road. In October 2010, Rasheed struck a deal to sell off the property to a couple, Mehmood and Irfana Khan, for Rs 35 lakh.

On November 30, Rasheed and his son, Imran, accompanied Irfana and her husband to the property to hand over its possession to them. But, Rasheed’s three siblings landed at the site and had a fight with the others over the sale. They later registered a complaint of assault against Rasheed and Irfana, leading to their arrest.

An upset Irfana wanted to teach Rasheed's siblings a lesson. She invited Rasheed and Imran to her Malwani residence on December 31. She also summoned her brother, Shakeel Khan, and Sajid. They hatched a plot to implicate Saleem, Hafeez and Haneef by planting explosives in their garage.


“On January 16, Sajid and Maqsood procured gunpowder, a black powder, nails, two packets of ball bearings and three bottles of chemicals from a Malegaon market. Four per cent of the black powder comprises RDX, PEK and PETN,” said additional commissioner Ramrao Pawar.

The duo reached Mumbai the next day and stayed at Mehmood’s house. On January 18, Sajid, Maqsood, Mehmood and Imran went to the garage on two bikes. However, atea vendor spotted them leaving behind a bag at the garage.

Later, Rasheed’s siblings discovered the bag. But they dumped the bag in a creek.


Meanwhile, Sajid decided to use his contacts in the police force and get Rasheed’s siblings arrested. He called up a deputy commissioner and claimed that he had spotted weapons inside a mosque belonging to the Ahl-E-Hadees sect. He also claimed that he had been surveying the mosque for a fortnight. On January 18, he called the cops to inform that a suspicious bag was lying at a Malad garage.

The police could not find the bag in the garage, but it was located near the creek. “We questioned Sajid and Imran. Early on January 19, Imran broke down and confessed while Sajid took some time.”


The Times of India, January 21, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nine Malegaon blast accused seek bail


2006 CARNAGE: Thirty one people died and 297 were injured in the blasts


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: Nine men, arrested for allegedly engineering the 2006 bomb blasts near a mosque in Malegaon, on Monday moved a special Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) court seeking bail. The accused have cited Swami Aseemanand’s confession pointing to the involvement of a right-wing group in the explosions.

Pointing out that they have been languishing in jail for the last over four years, the arrested suspects, in their bail plea, said, “From the confession it is clear that those responsible for the 2006 Malegaon blasts are persons far removed from the current accused.”

“There is no direct evidence of their involvement in the said offence,” the one of the lawyers representing the suspects told TOI from Malegaon. Gulzar Azmi, general secretary of Jamiat-ul-Ulema, a socioreligious NGO fighting for the Malegaon men, said, “We have filed the bail application and are hoping our men will be released soon.”
The special court has directed the investigating agency to file its reply by January 28.

On September 8, 2006, three bombs went off inside a cemetery and a fourth one in central part of Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297. Following the blasts, the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) arrested nine persons—Salman Farsi, Shabir Ahmed, Noorulhuda Doha, Rais Ahmed, Mohammed Ali, Asif Khan, Javed Sheikh, Faroogue Ansari and Abrar Ahmed—saying that the
men had executed the blasts with the help of two Pakistanis. On December 21, 2006, the case was transferred to the CBI following a public outcry against the arrests. Aseemanand, arrested on November 23 last year for his alleged role in the 2007 blasts at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, in his confession, said, “ Sadhvi Pragay Thakur, Sunil Joshi, Sandeep Dange, Bharat Riteshwar and I gathered in Surat on June 23, 2006. We planned to carry out bomb blasts at Ajmer shrine, Mecca Masjid and in Malegaon and Samjhauta Express. I suggested that we begin by carrying out blasts in Malegaon as it has a large Muslim population.”

Till November 16, 2009, the CBI had neither filed a supplementary charge sheet in the case nor had it produced any evidence against the arrested accused. S S Shaikh, a senior advocate representing the accused, said, “The CBI filed a supplementary charge sheet after the court said that the men could be released on bail.”



Special CBI team will visit the powerloom town next week
Areinvestigating special investigation the 2006 team Malegaon (SIT) of blasts the CBI case , which , will is visit the powerloom town this week in connection with the probe. “The CBI team will visit all the four blast sites and speak to witnesses to collect more information about the accused and their involvement. The CBI team is also expected to meet members of Kul-Jamaati Tanzeem, an NGO comprising all Muslim sects,” said a source. A special court had granted permission to CBI to re-probe the case in wake of Swami Aseemanand’s confession linking Hindu groups to the attacks. TNN


NCP seeks ban on RSS, Abhinav Bharat

New Delhi: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)— a key UPA ally— on Monday demanded a ban on the RSS and the Hindu extremist group Abhinav Bharat for their alleged involvement in terrorist activities in the country.

The demand was put forward by the NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar during his meeting with the Union home minister P Chidambaram here. He also demanded that Muslims arrested in connection with the 2006 Malegaon blast case should be released immediately.

“They (Muslims) should be released immediately as there is ample proof of Hindu radicals carrying out the Malegaon blasts,” Anwar told reporters after the meeting.

Referring to the confessional statement made by Swami Aseemanand about in
volvement of Hindu radicals in a number of blasts, Anwar said he also asked the home minister to constitute a task force headed by either a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge to have a re-look into all the blasts that took place since 1994 and conduct a fair inquiry.

Notice to govt on Pragya bro’s plea
The Monday Delhi high sought court replies on from the Union government and the NIA on a petition filed by Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s brother Ananth Brahmachari accusing the agency of torturing and illegally detaining him. The high court sought their replies by April 6. “How can you call a person who is not in your jurisdiction for interrogation? ,” the petitioner asked.


The Times of India, January 18, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Torture or suicide bid? Inmates’ kin cry foul



Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: Two chain snatchers consumed a liquid, suspected to be poison, in the LT Marg police station’s lock-up. The family of the accused alleged that they took this extreme step, after being tortured to extract a false confession of crimes, they never committed. Surprisingly just an hour later, they were to be produced before a magistrate.

Senior officials at the LT Marg police station were tightlipped about the case. “We are examining the nature of the liquid they consumed and how it happened.” said
an officer, requesting anonymity. Police officers are conducting meetings with assistant police commissioner Bapu Katakdound on this episode.

A relative of one of the victims identified them as Shehzad Ghachi (20) and Shadab Shaikh (21) and stay in Nagpada. “On Decem
ber 24, Pydhonie police picked them up on charges of chain snatching. One of them is addicted to having sleeping pills. The police said they were involved in a series of chain snatching incidents in south and central Mumbai,” a relative informed.

He added, “Shaikh was arrested from Nag
pada. Ghachi was nabbed from Gujarat, where his relatives stay. They seized Shaikh’s motorbike and wrongly implicated them in crimes, which they never committed.”

According to other family members, the two consumed poison at around 11 am on Saturday, an hour before they were to be produced be
fore a magistrate. “The previous night, policemen beat them up to extract a confession of their crimes. Fed up with the torture, the two consumed poison,” added a relative. “We are still trying to establish what exactly happened. A medical report is awaited which will ascertain the liquid,” said an officer.



The Times of India, January 16, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aseemanand’s confession contradicts probe by ATS

MALEGAON BLAST CASE


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: A Special Investigation team formed by the CBI will quiz the nine youths arrested for the 2006 Malegaon mosque blasts. The questioning, say police, will be based on the confessional statement given by Samjhauta bomb blast suspect, Swami Aseemanand. However, the CBI has not taken cognizance of an affidavit filed by one of the Muslim boys unraveling the conspiracy.

The CBI, which followed the charge sheet filed by the ATS in the case, is now relying on Aseemanand’s statement. The CBI probe and Aseemanand’s confession contradict each other. The ATS and CBI stated that the bombs were manufactured by two Pakistani nationals, one of them identified as Muzammil.

The police had said the RDX bombs were planted by arrested suspects Mohammed Zahid, Noor-ul-Huda, Abrar
Ahmed and Raees Ahmed. However, Aseemanand told a judge that the bombs were made and planted by slain RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi. The charge sheet says the Malegaon boys planned the blasts in July 2006, while Aseemanand says the conspiracy for the blasts was hatched in Gujarat in June 2006.

Similarly, the ATS said the finances were arranged by Shabbir Masiullah, now behind bars, while Aseemanand said he had paid Rs 25,000 to Joshi prior to the blasts to buy bomb making materials. Masiullah, said the ATS was the brain behind the blasts. However, he was already held by the police two months before the blasts. Malegaon residents say that if Masiullah was guilty, the cops could have unearthed the “diabolical plot” at the time of his arrest.


The ATS said that the Muslim boys wanted to create riot-like situation after the blasts and then say Hindus were responsible. An accused arrested by the Rajasthan police, Harshad Solanki, told cops that wanted accused Ramji had planned the blasts in temples and mosques to create riot-like situation.

Abrar Ahmed, an approver in the case, stated in an affidavit in 2008 that he had no role to play in the blasts and was promised money to take blame. “In the affidavit he has mentioned the places he was taken to after the 2006 blasts. They include Deolali, Ujjain, Indore, Dewas, etc. These are the same places where the saffron group involved in the 2008 blast conducted its meeting,” said advocate Irfana Hamdani from Malegaon.

The ATS, probing the 2008 blast case, is yet to get a certified a “confession” by Aseemanand linking himself and Hindu groups and to the 2006 blasts.


The Times of India, January 15, 2011

Top cop seeks 1K-strong force to secure Mumbai

LESSON LEARNT


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: Police commissioner Sanjeev Dayal has asked the state government to sanction 1,000 more personnel to secure the city. There are plans afoot to provide them with multi-level and specialised training in intercepting and tackling terror suspects.

Incidentally, the top brass also wants to beef up the strength of the seven police stations whose rank and file guard the Mumbai shoreline. “Forget the number of vessels arriving at the ports. Every week about 20 barges come to the ship-breaking yard at Darukhana near Ferry Wharf. We need the personnel if we
want to keep an eye on activities at all the 54 landing points in the city,” an officer said.

Currently, Yellow Gate police station have a strength of about 250 personnel who are in charge of port security from Ferry Wharf right up to Sew
ree. “The Sagar police station is the only one in Mumbai whose jurisdiction extends to the sea,” said the officer.

When contacted, Quaiser Khalid, deputy commissioner of police (Port) said, “A proposal to increase the number of police personnel has been sent to the government
and we are awaiting a favourable response.”

Sources said that while a police officer and two constables are posted at every landing point, they need to increase this number drastically.

The police have stepped up vigilance near seafronts since the 26/11 terror attacks when 10 Pakistani terrorists entered Mumbai through the sea route and killed 166. While the number of patrol boats has gone up to 17, three new bullet-proof boats are likely to be sanctioned soon.

The port police said that once they are provided with the manpower, they will be trained on the pattern of navy commandos.


The Times of India, January 15, 2011

Is terror on the prowl again at city shoreline?



INTEL ALERT

Terrorists May Plant Bombs Under Hull Of Ships, Vigil Stepped Up


Mateen Hafeez TNN


Mumbai: Intelligence agencies have issued a terror alert, warning the city police against ‘trained swimmers’ who could plant bombs under the hull of ships and boats anchored near the shore.
The alert comes close on the heels of several intel inputs hinting at terror
ists trying to sneak in through the sea route to carry out subversive activities in the metropolis.

Following the latest advisory, cops have stepped up vigilance at Ferry Wharf and near the Gateway, though no date has been specified about when the terrorists plan to strike. If sources in the security estab
lishment are to be believed, this time round, the attack could be carried out by members of a sleeper cell of the banned outfit, Indian Mujahideen (IM).

However, police officials say such tip-offs have become “a matter of routine”. “Last year, the (intelligence) agencies had warned of an aerial attack. They directed us to be on the lookout for terrorists gaining access to Mumbai with the help of paragliders,” an officer said, adding that paragliding had subsequently been banned in certain parts of the city. “We were then informed that members of a certain terror outfit were trying to use the underground drainage system to land in the metropolis. Even then we had beefed up security but could not zero in on anyone,” the officer said.


“Such warnings puts unnecessary pressure on us. Even this time, the alert does not specify any place, date or time. What we are supposed to do? However, we have stepped up security after we received the latest alert as we don’t want to take any chances,” the officer said.


The Times of India, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Maharashtra ATS may book Swami for 2008 blast case


Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Jatin Chatterjee alias Swami Aseemanand



Mateen Hafeez TNN
Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) may book Naba Kumar Sarkar alias SwamiAseemanand for his role in the 2008 Malegaon blast, senior police officials indicated on Thursday. A fresh bail application for the release of nine Malegaon youths, who were arrestedforthe2006blasts,is also likely to be filed soon.

Aseemanand (59) had been arrested by the National Investigation Agency for his suspected role in the Samjhauta Express train blasts in 2007 that killed 68. An ATS team is already camping in Haryana where it questioned Aseemanand about his alleged involvement in the second Male
gaon blast. The ATS charge sheetmentionsthatAseemanand was present at several conspiracy meetings of the blast.Thereisevenavideoof him in arrested suspect Shankaracharya Swami Dayanand Pandey’s laptop.

Aseemanand, who was first arrested in November last year and booked in the 2007 Ajmer Sharif dargah blast, was later booked in Hyderabad’s Mecca masjid bombblast.OnNovember18, 2010, while giving a confessional statement before magistrate Deepak Dabas,
Aseemanand said, “We were involved in the 2008 Malegaon blast.” Eleven members of the Jai Vande Matram Kalyan Samiti and Abhinav Bharat were arrested for this blast.


Soon after the explosive confession of Aseemanand, various Muslim organizations came forward and met chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, home minister R R Patil and minority affair minister, Aarif Naseem Khan. Gulzar Azmi, general secretary, Jamiat-ul-Ulema, said, “We have hired senior defence counsel Nitya Ramakrishna for the 2006 Malegaon blasts case. She has drafted the bail application and will personally argue the case for the Malegaon boys.” He said their priority was to get these boys released at the earliest.

31 people were killed in the 2006 blasts and six were killed in the 2008 blast.


CBI to ‘reinvestigate’ 2006 Malegaon blast case

S Ahmed Ali & Neeraj Chauhan TNN


Mumbai: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will “reopen and reinvestigate” the 2006 Malegaon blast case in view of Swami Aseemanand’s confession that a group of Hindu radicals were behind it and also in light of other corroborative evidence.

The CBI has decided to form a Special Investigating Team (SIT) for the reinvestigation. The agency, on Thursday, moved an application before an MCOCA court in Mumbai “to reopen and reinvestigate” the blast case. Accepting the CBI’s arguments, special MCOCA judge Yatin D Shinde granted the agency permission under Section 173 (8) of Criminal Procedure Code to reinvestigate the case. “We need to conduct further investigations into the blast following fresh disclosures made by one Aseemanand in his confession,” CBI counsel Ejaz Khan argued before the court.


ACBI spokesperson in Delhi confirmed that “an application was filed today in Mumbai which has been accepted”. Agency sources said they would take the case diary of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), disclosure statements of all the arrested persons, charge sheets and other documents.

Sources said the CBI will soon move an application before the Malegaon sessions court in Nashik, seeking reinvestigation in the light of Aseemanand’s fresh confession. The CBI has decided to reopen the case in order to corroborate Aseemanand’s statements.

The CBI also plans to look
into the arrest of nine Malegaon residents in the 2006 blast case. The families of these nine have accused the Maharashtra ATS of framing them since they were under pressure to solve the case quickly.

If Aseemanand’s confession is to be believed, then all the police officers, including a senior IPS officer, who were instrumental in arresting the nine ‘innocent’ men from Malegaon, may be pulled up.


Aseemanand, who used to run the Shabri Dham ashram, told a court in Delhi in December last year that apart from the Mecca masjid blast in Hyderabad and the Ajmer dargah blasts, his associates were also involved in the 2006 and 2008 Malegaon blasts. According to reports, Aseemanand, in his confessional statement, said that while Malegaon was targeted as 80% of its residents were Muslims, Ajmer was targeted as lots of Hindus were
visiting the dargah and they wanted to put a stop to this practice.

Meanwhile, a four-member team of the state ATS reached Haryana to question Aseemanand for his alleged role in the two Malegaon blasts. “It is too early to say anything, but we will see whether we can seek his custody so that we can interrogate him thoroughly in connection with the two blasts.” said an officer on condition of anonymity.


The Times of India, January 14, 2011