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-inlaw, 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 concentrated 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:
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
The times of India, January 31, 2011