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Puddle of Blood: There are too many unanswered questions in the Palghar Sadhu lynching case

It is sad to see the police, the media and even the CM act in such suspicious and malicious way in the wake of such a horrific incident. The coordinated efforts to first suppress, then dilute and now dismiss the incident by the Police, Media, as well as the CM, seem like a major coverup only hinging on the complaint filed by the now-suspended API.

The brutal lynching of Swami Kalpvriksha Giri, Sushil Giriand their driver has shocked the entire nation. The subsequent social media backlash forced Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray to break his silence and address the Palghar Sadhu lynching case in a brief address. Though some detractors are busy spinning the narrative of their choice there are still some questions which have remained unanswered.

Inadequacy of the Police in the Palghar Sadhu lynching case

Vicious rumour-mongering being common in the area, the victims were accused of a theft which occurred in Gadchinchale village. Rumour of child abduction and organ harvesting were also cited as the cause of violence.

By their own admission the police force with one API and two PSI’s were at the active scene of crime well 20 min before the final and deathly reign of hits took place. What transpired afterwards is shrouded in mystery as the accounts in the complaint don’t match the horrific video of the incident doing rounds on social media and indicate a major omission of facts by polices.

The complaint mentions API Anandrao kale being informed about the location of an incident in progression involving a violent mob which overturned a white vehicle on 16th April between the Gadchinchle and Chaukipada village. It further states that upon reaching the active scene of the crime, police started working on retrieving the three trapped individuals in the overturned car and escort them towards the police vehicle. Did the police take the necessary steps to disperse the mob is not detailed in the complaint and even if taken they must have failed as the account of the incident further describes the mob restraining officers helping the victims? The mob then proceeded to pelt stones upon other officers and their vehicles. No countermeasures seem to have taken place as the mob had its way with the sadhus.

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In the video a police personal can be seen escorting Swami Kalpavriksha out of a building towards a police vehicle when the mob gets animated and starts raining lathis and rods upon the helpless monk. The policeman can be seen ditching the sadhu right in the middle of the murderous crowd, ignoring his pleas for help and trot off his hand several times. The complaint never mentions the building in which Swami Kalpavriksha took refuge, how did he end up there or who escorted him out to his abandonment and death.

Many discrepancies between the complaint, the video evidence and common sense raises a few questions such as, 

  1. How did a mob of 400-500 assemble in such a short time in an area where the villages (Pada) with a population of 100-150 are separated by a sizeable distance between them?
  2. Why were the authorities so unaware of the mob’s movements prior to the incident?
  3. As section 144 order was already in effect, how can a mob this large assemble based on mere suspicion of the so-called theft? Where were the police patrols?
  4. Once on the scene, why didn’t the police use crowd-control methods to better direct the situation? 
  5. Given by the timeline in the complaint the incident took place within just 20 minutes, why didn’t police try and defuse the situation by use of force like lathi-charge or firing in the air? 
  6. As the complaint claims they were pelted by stones and were being thrashed by a mob then why didn’t the police retaliate with force? Was the justification of being outnumbered and being attacked from all sides, not enough?

I understand that in such situations when it is down to the wire you have to take a judgement call and it is evident that the API on the scene didn’t make the right one.

Lies of press after the Palghar lynching of Sadhus

The complaint against the seven prime accused was filed on the 17th April by API Anand Kale, which details the police’s narration of the incident. It starts with the complainant API receiving information about the incident over a phone call and ends with him returning to his station after the incident with searching through jungles for suspects in between. In no way or fashion, the police imply that the victims were actually thieves, or involved in any illegal activities of such nature. The only mention of this ‘thievery’ is when the complaint mentions that the mob suspected the three of theft based on a rumour.

A complaint is merely a descriptive report of first impressions of the complainant about the incident, not a judgement. And as for the claims of suspicion of theft being root cause of the lynching, they are yet to be proven and are still under investigation. Yet the day after, all mainstreammedia went with the headlines such as “Three ‘thieves’ beaten to death by villagers in Maharashtra’s Palghar district”. Forget the murder of journalistic ethics or complete disregard of the due process, but it is necessary to ask what prompted this jump to the ‘suitable’ conclusion?

The suspicious behavior of the media raises following questions,

  1. Who briefed the media with the story of suspected thieves being killed, when the police itself is still investigating? What and who pushed media to act as the judge, the jury and the executioner and declare the sadhus as ‘thieves’? Isn’t this an attempt to whitewash the crime?
  2. Why did media deliberately omit the fact that the two victims of this violence were sadhus? Isn’t it a common practice in media that when an individual is attacked usually the heading reads of his identity as ‘Lawyer shot by unknown individuals’, then why act out of the norm now?

The hijinks of media further prove that, if a victim does not belong to some so-called oppressed subset of the demographic, at best the mainstream media will kill the report or worst will misreport the crime with heavy dose of victim blaming.

Read: The Wire declares that two Sadhus of Juna Akhara, victims of Palghar lynching, were not Hindus at all: Here is the truth

The coordinated stance of media indicates towards an unholy nexus of media houses and their manipulation of information. In a democracy where information is as important as currency, that’s equivalent to the crime of counterfeiting where all parties involved in the trade face the losses and only the counterfeiters’ profit. So, let’s ask who is benefiting from this?

Suspicious silence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray

This series of unfortunate events took place on the eve of 16thApril, 2020, yet the world at large became aware of it once a video of the brutal killings started doing rounds on Social Media. For total of three whole days the chief Minister of Maharashtra sat silent on the matter. And even when he finally spoke, he furthered the misreporting done by media, taunted citizens by labelling citizens outrage against the brutal killings as an attempt to communalise or politicise the matter. Isn’t this even a tad bit suspicious?

  1. Why is the Chief Minister of Maharashtra interfering with the investigation by declaring the killings were results of suspicion?[ii]Who is he protecting? Why is he so desperate to further the narrative set by the media?[iii]
  2. Why does the CM acts as if the incident is a PR crisis when in actuality it is a humanitarian crisis?
  3. How can the CM claim that an outrage of citizens is an attempt to communalise or politicize the matter?
  4. Why is the home ministers of Maharashtra are threatening the citizens with legal consequences if they speak their mind to demand justice for the victims?

It is sad to see the police, the media and even the CM act in such suspicious and malicious way in the wake of such a horrific incident. The coordinated efforts to first suppress, then dilute and now dismiss the incident by the Police, Media, as well as the CM, seem like a major coverup only hinging on the complaint filed by the now-suspended API. As the basis of conviction in a criminal proceeding is to prove the complaint beyond reasonable doubt and the video clearly shows Swami Kalpavriksha being escorted out of a building towards police vehicle and then get fatally attacked. But the complaint filed by the eyewitness API Anandrao Kale omits this part of the incidence, meaning the fact and the complaint differ. The law requires the complaint to be perfect, correct and true, which is not the case. So why is the complaint being falsified? Is this material omission a part of a scheme to hide the laxity of the police or to create loopholes for the real culprits to escape the clutches of law? Why is media tugging at the same feeble thread? And who is behind all this? Who is benefiting out of this? Will the CM clarify?

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Eshaan Ganpule
Law Graduate | Nomad | Student Activist | Writer | Non Believer | Proud Nationalist

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