Yashwant Sonawane, the 46-year-old additional collector who was burnt alive, had gone to Chandwad near Nashik to quell a protest by farmers who were angry about the crashing of onion prices.
Sonawane was returning from Chandwad and was on his way to Nandgaon when he got information that adulteration was taking place near Panewadi village.
Sonawane went to Panewadi and spotted someone stealing kerosene from a tanker parked near a roadside eatery called Sagar Dhaba.
“He went and questioned the person who was stealing the kerosene but that person ran away from there,” KP Raghuvanshi, additional director general of police (law and order) said.
Raghuvanshi said Sonawane then called the local supply inspector and asked him to come to Panewadi.
“Sonawane was waiting [for the supply inspector] near his car when four people came on two motorcycles and started assaulting him,” Raghuvanshi said.
The men then picked up the canisters full of kerosene lying around, doused Sonawane with the inflammable liquid and set him on fire, Raghuvanshi said.
The four men have been identified as Popat Shinde, his son, Kunal, his brother-in-law, Sitaram Bhalerao, and an accomplice, Raju Shirshat.
Raghuvanshi said Sonawane died on the spot while Popat suffered 65% burns when he was trying to pin the officer down.
“We have arrested the accused and are investigating the case,” Raghuvanshi said. The police are probing if there were more people involved in the attack.
He said Shinde has at least two cases of assault registered against him in the past.
“He was externed in 2006 for a similar case,” Raghuvanshi said, adding that various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including murder and rioting, along with sections of the Essential Commodities Act have been invoked against the accused.
Raghuvanshi said it was not a planned raid hence Sonawane did not have any security with him.
The officer said that the police have registered cases against the oil mafia and would crack down on them.