On April 16, 2020, the two Sadhus of Juna Akhara, Chikne Maharaj Kalpavrukshagiri (70), and Sushilgiri Maharaj (35) were lynched along with their 30-year-old driver by a mob. The incident took place at Gadchinchale village in Palghar district, Maharashtra. As they were on their way to Surat, Gujarat. The police were present at the scene, but they allegedly did not try to stop the mob or did anything to save the sadhus.
The police had initially claimed that their team which had rushed to the spot to rescue the 70-year-old man also came under the attack of the violent mob. However, later videos emerged that completely debunked the claim of the police. Contrary to the claims, the police personnel had allegedly handed over the Sadhus to the frenzied mob, which went on to beat them to death in front of the policemen.
This piece is to pay homage of three souls, who were lynched by a mob Palghar district in state of Maharashtra in 2020. As the public memory, which is always short and fickle, fades, the issue of seeking justice for the Palghar lynchings seemed to have been pushed to the back burner, with both politicians and citizens displaying little concern to take the case to its logical end.
Several reports that emerged in the wake of the bloodcurdling lynching hinted that the brutal murder of the Hindu sadhus may not have been an act of spontaneity, but a part of a broader conspiracy designed to eliminate the Hindu priests. An FIR into the case revealed an ultra-left connection to the lynching as it mentioned that a CPI(M) gram panchayat member had allegedly gathered a mob armed with rods and stones to kill the sadhus.
“The modus operandi by cutting trees and placing boulders to obstruct movement is also a common stratagem used by Naxalites against their preys,” the had FIR mentioned. Reports also emerged that the killing of the Sadhus may have been intentional and politically motivated. The involvement of Christian Missionary organisations and some local NCP leaders and leftists were also suspected.
The horrifying lynching had shaken the collective conscience of the country, with voices emerging from several parts of the country to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to the book. Several politicians, across the political spectrum, came together to demand strict action against the culprits so that such incidents are never repeated in the future and a strong precedent is set.
As the slain sadhus await justice, the collective indifference toward their fate also reveals that the initial rage, shock and anger that swept the country following the incident was just a transient phenomenon that has vanished as people demonstrated little concern to continue the fight for justice.
Eventually, Palghar SP Gaurav Singh was sent on compulsory leave and five police personnel were suspended. Besides, 35 police officers from the local Kasa police station were also transferred as the public fury shifted towards the government for taking exemplary action against the police officers responsible for handing over the sadhus to the bloodthirsty mob.
Four days after the incident, the case was transferred to the CID, even as demands for a CBI inquiry into the matter steadily gained momentum. In fact, four separate petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court demanding CBI or NIA probe into the lynching incident.
Nevertheless, as the attention of the public was drawn towards the case and the pressure was mounting, the CID team of Maharashtra Police swung into action, filing at least 7 charge sheets and arresting over 250 accused in the case, along with 15 juveniles. Notably, 56 accused initially named in the case are still on the run.
The charge sheet said that the ghastly attack was a result of rumours / fake messages making rounds on WhatsApp groups, informing the villagers that child lifters and organ harvesters were moving around in the area. Based on the rumour, the sadhus were attacked and killed by a mob of over 300 people.
However, two years since the gruesome incident took place, justice still eludes the slain sadhus who were the victim of a brutal mob determined to hack them to death. As the public memory, which is always short and fickle, fades, the issue of seeking justice for the Palghar lynchings seemed to have been pushed into the back burner as both, politicians and citizens, have displayed little concern to take the case to its logical end.
Two years on, the case is yet to be heard in the court of law and there seems to be no urgency on the Maharashtra government’s part to expedite it for a quick hearing. The opposition, too, appears to have exhibited little appetite to corner the Maharashtra government on the inordinate delay witnessed in the Palghar sadhu lynchings case and is content with the state’s laissez-faire approach in the matter.
The Palghar Sadhu lynchings should have galvanised people against the appalling complicity of the police force in handing over the victims to a mob exhibiting murderous tendencies. Instead, what we are witnessing today is a shocking apathy towards the treatment meted out to the Hindu sadhus, who were killed by a mob for no fault of theirs.