It was a tense Friday in Tarsa, a sleepy outpost 40 km from Nagpur city. The previous night, as Minister For Public Works Anil Deshmukh looked on helplessly, a mob comprising mostly Shiv Sena supporters stripped and beat to death Dyaneshwar Sathwane.
Sathwane was a senior Congress leader and former vice-president of the Nagpur Zilla Parishad (a local self-government council) who the Sena men suspected was behind the murder of their parishad member Gopal Lobhare.
Sathwane was on the dais with Deshmukh at an election meeting when the Sena men rushed in and attacked him. Deshmukh had a lucky escape, sustaining only minor injuries.
DSP Yashashree Yadav said the mob, incensed that Sathwane was allowed to share the stage with Deshmukh, also stoned the minister’s car.
There was pandemonium as terrified Congress and NCP supporters also fled the venue.
The attack lasted just a few minutes before the Sena supporters ran away. Sathawane lay unattended in a pool of blood for over an hour, succumbing to his injuries as he was finally taken to a private nursing home around midnight.
Deshmukh came down hard on police for “miserably failing to tackle the situation”. He said the district police deployed inadequate force at the venue despite the threat of violence.
Babita, Sathwane’s wife, also lashed out at the police, alleging they were mute spectators to the episode. “The least they could have done was fire in the air to disperse the mob. But they did nothing. They allowed my husband to be murdered.”
She demanded that the police officer in charge of Tarsa, Ramesh Tayde, be booked as a co-accused. “This is a Sena attack. Its local leader Ashish Jaiswal should be booked too,” Babita demanded.
DSP Yadav, though, denied that Sena activists were involved, and blamed Tarsa villagers instead. “The villagers strongly suspected Sathwane was behind Lobhare’s murder. The attack was the outcome of their anger over the (six-month-old) episode,” he said.
Yadav said 18 people were arrested for the murder. Among them were 13 Sena panchayat members and their district deputy chief Vardarajan Pilley.