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Monday musings: Tragic case of a woman, a minister and the Pune Police

Maharashtra’s politics surrounding the death by suicide of 23-year-old woman and her association with minister Sanjay Rathod, finally culminated with his resignation on Sunday, a day before Maharashtra’s budget session is to begin
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 12:37 PM IST

Maharashtra’s politics surrounding the death by suicide of 23-year-old woman and her association with minister Sanjay Rathod, finally culminated with his resignation on Sunday, a day before Maharashtra’s budget session is to begin.

Rathod’s resignation may allow police to probe the matter fairly, but will it offer answers to multiple questions?

From the day young woman, who hailed from Beed district, died at her rented flat in Wanowrie in Pune, audio clips played a crucial role in letting the media and opposition keep the pressure on the government and, more particularly, on the Shiv Sena, given Rathod belongs to the party.

The audio clips have multiple conversations between two individuals who the BJP alleges are Sanjay Rathod and Arun Rathod; also Sanjay Rathod and the deceased woman… and so on.

In one of the conversations, a man with a voice resembling that of the former minister is instructing another person to get hold of the woman’s mobile phone immediately after her death, something which points to an attempt to destroy the evidence, as alleged by the BJP.

Who leaked those clips to the BJP leaders?

The clips were originally in the possession of the Wanowrie police who are investigating the case. The home department in Maharashtra is currently led by the Nationalist Congress Party’s Anil Deshmukh, who was conspicuous by his silence, barring a brief statement, when he said a probe will be carried out in the matter.

Deshmkuh’s party president Sharad Pawar, too, has maintained a studied silence on the issue, even after 20 days.

When HT checked with police on Sunday, the investigating officer claimed that the clips are yet to be sent to the forensic lab to ascertain the identity of the voices.

On the day the woman died by suicide on February 8, there were over 40 calls between Sanjay Rathod and her, claimed BJP leader Chitra Wagh, whose rise in the party is seen as astonishing as her switching loyalties four years back from the Nationalist Congress Party to BJP.

The police have maintained all along that they are probing all the aspects of the case.

BJP leaders accessing call details between the woman and the former minister is as surprising as the silence by the NCP and Congress, who share power in the state with Shiv Sena.

Another allegation, is that after the death of woman, calls were made to 100 (control number), when the police personnel in control room advised the caller to dial another mobile number.

After dialling the mobile number shared by the control room, the individual on the receiving end included one more person through a conference call. All this, as the BJP leader alleged, is as intriguing as the circumstances in which the young woman died by suicide.

So far, police have not filed a First Information Report (FIR), without which no action can be taken against. The BJP, therefore, has stepped up the pressure to register an FIR.

While police had initially maintained there is no complaint by the family, police can, suo moto take cognisance of the matter and file a complaint.

On Sunday, when a woman claiming to be relative of deceased reached the Wanowrie police station with complaint application, the officials claimed the deceased’s father has distanced the family from the woman.

So far, police have recorded the statement of Arun Rathod, who was present during the incident and shared a flat with her. But, his whereabouts are unknown.

Sanjay Rathod, the Sena MLA from Yavatmal district, has neither denied his association with Arun, nor has he commented on it. The Sena politician has only vehemently denied his role in the death of woman.

His resignation as a minister is the first major trouble the Maha Vikas Aghadi has faced just after it completed one year in power in Maharashtra. The move has emboldened the BJP, as it vows to be more aggressive in the future.

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