The Maharashtra government’s resolution to crack down on the oil-pilferage and -adulteration network met with fierce resistance on Tuesday when goons threw stones at a police team during a raid at a place near Nagpur.
This comes just a week after additional district collector Yashwant Sonawane was killed on January 25 by kerosene thieves in Manmad. The crackdown is in response to the killing.
On Tuesday, a police party led by deputy superintendent Sudhakar Palandurkar went to investigate whether a consignment of kerosene had been illegally brought in. Later police found Maoist literature at the residence of the main culprit, Pannalal Rajput, who managed to flee the place.
“We are investigating whether a link between the Naxalites and Rajput exists,” Palandurkar said.
When the police team reached the spot, some unidentified persons, most of them belonging to the Pardhi community and suspected to be Rajput’s henchmen, began throwing stones and some even attacked them with axes. The miscreants also damaged police vehicles. Sixteen policemen were injured.
Palandurkar said the party had seized 350 litres of kerosene while Rajput’s wife and his associates had destroyed three barrels of the fuel as soon as the police team reached the village.
“We had information that Rajput was involved in kerosene stealing for several years,” he added. Later, police resorted to lathicharge. So far 19 persons have been arrested.
However, Maharashtra civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh disputed the police claim and said the Pardhi community had been selling liquor illegally for years. “The kerosene seized at the site was being used for domestic purposes. They might have attacked the police in fear that the team had gone to raid the illegal liquor den.”