11 held in Sonawane murder case

Mumbai: Eleven people have been arrested in the murder of Additional District Collector Yashwant Sonawane who was burnt alive by suspected members of local oil mafia, as the official`s family and BJP demanded a CBI probe into the incident.

While seven accused were arrested earlier, four more persons were nabbed in connection with the incident on Wednesday night, Nashik SP Milind Bharambe said.

Earlier in the day, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Manmad) Samadhan Pawar had said that "involvement of more and important people in the crime cannot be ruled out."

Main accused Popat Shinde, who is in critical condition after sustaining burn injuries while setting on fire the Malegaon ADC on Tuesday after the latter detected pilfering of kerosene, was shifted to state-run J J hospital in Mumbai. He is reported to be in a serious condition.

Popat Shinde, who has two earlier cases registered against him in connection with fuel adulteration, was first admitted to Nashik civil hospital.

The other six accused were produced before a local court in Manmad town and remanded in police custody till February 8, Pawar said. The accused have been booked under relevant sections of IPC including murder charge and some provisions of Essential Commodities act, police said.

Four more persons were arrested in connection with the gruesome murder tonight on the basis of information provided by those remanded in custody, Bharambe said.

They have been identified as Kunal Shinde, Hakkaki Khan, Imran Khan and Ajay Sonawale, he said, adding, they were present when the incident took place.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan vowed to go into the "root" of the incident after 42-year-old Sonawane was done to death near Manmad in Nashik district yesterday.

He also ordered strict action against those indulging in adulteration of fuel over which the state bureaucrat lost his life.

The total number of arrests rose to seven after three more persons were picked up late last night.

While Popat, Sitaram Balerao and Raju Shirsat were arrested soon after the shocking incident, four more accused Vikas Shinde, Machindra Suradkar alias Kacharu, Tauseef Shaikh and Deepak Borse were picked last late night, police said.

Pawar said the main accused`s son Kunal Shinde is still at large.

In a hurriedly-called press conference yesterday, Additional Director General (Law & Order) K P Raghuvanshi said Kunal had also been arrested.

The last rites of Sonawane were conducted in Nashik last night. Several government officials were also present at the funeral.

The demand for a CBI inquiry was made by the victim`s brother-in-law Anand Dani.

"Sonawane`s Personal Assistant as well as the driver was there when the incident occurred. It is surprising that only he was targeted," Dani said.

Mobile phone records of Sonawane should be checked and the probe should be handed over to CBI, Dani said.

BJP spokeperson Prakash Javadekar expressed shock over the incident and demanded a CBI probe to unearth the nexus among oil mafias, bureaucrats and politicians.

Sonawane`s personal assistant and official driver managed to escape from the assailants from the scene of the crime.

JJ Hospital dean P P Lahane said, "Popat has received 70 per cent burn injuries and his condition is serious. He is being treated in a special ward where severe burn injury patients get admitted."

"Not only external body, but also his internal parts, including lungs, sustained burns. He is under observation," the Dean added.

According to police, Sonawane had spotted a person taking out fuel from a parked oil tanker and questioned him.

As the man, who was later identified as Tauseef, fled from the spot, Sonawane immediately called the Supply Inspector to the spot to investigate.

While he was waiting and trying to photograph the transfer of kerosene from an oil tanker to a truck, some people came on motorcycles and started beating him up. Popat Shinde, helped by his son, and their aides Balerao and Shirsat then poured kerosene on Sonawane and torched him, police said.

Vikas, Machindra and Deepak were also present at the site at the time of incident, police said.

There are oil depots of Indian Oil and Bharat Petroleum near Panewadi from where oil tankers fill up petrol, diesel or kerosene.

Maharashtra PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal lashed out at the opposition for blaming him for the murderous attack on Sonawane.

"How is a Guardian Minister responsible? We had complained to the police about the activities of the oil mafia. Steps were being taken and action had been taken against Popat Shinde, the accused. He was externed from Manmad and his oil tanker was also seized," Bhujbal told PTI.

Leader of Opposition in legislative assembly Eknath Khadse, held Food and Civil Supplies department responsible for the incident.

"Two months ago Food and civil supplies Minister Anil Deshmukh carried out the farce of conducting raids (on oil mafia)," Khadse said.

Republican Party of India Leader and former MP Prakash Ambedkar also demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident.

Planning Commission`s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the incident was "distressing and tragic".

"Here is an officer who is actually doing his job in very difficult circumstances and suffers this incredible fate…It does reflect the fact that when you have a large price difference which leads to market distortion which creates a illegal market you develop not just vested interests but effectively criminalised vested interests," said Ahluwalia, who is in Davos in Switzerland to attend the WEF summit.

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