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Sonawane murder case: 7 held, kin demands CBI inquiry

January 26, 2011 17:54 IST
Seven persons were arrested in the murder of Additional District Collector of Malegaon district Yashwant Sonawane who was burnt alive by suspected members of a local oil mafia, as the victim's family demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the incident.

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 on Tuesday. He also ordered strict action against those indulging in adulteration of fuel over which the state bureaucrat lost his life. "We are going into the root of this incident. What exactly happened? Who are behind it," Chavan said.

The last rites of the additional collector were conducted in Nashik on Tuesday night. Several government officials were also present at the funeral.

Police said the arrested seven persons are Popat Dattu Shinde, Raju Shirsat, Kacharu Surode, Vikas Shinde, Sitaram Bhosale, Dipak Borase and Tausif Shaikh Altaf Shaikh. Another suspect Kunal Shinde is absconding, police said.

Popat Shinde, the prime suspect who also suffered burn injuries in the incident, has been shifted to Nashik Civil Hospital. Popat Shinde has two earlier cases in connection with fuel adulteration registered against him.

According to the police, Sonawane was returning from Chandrar village after reviewing the situation there in the wake of a demonstration by onion farmers, when he found some people adulterating kerosene in a tanker parked behind Sagar Dhaba at Panewadi near Manmad. Sonawane stopped and questioned them. He also called up police.

Following this, Popat Shinde and three others allegedly poured kerosene on the official, and set him afire. Sonawane died on the spot.

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

The demand for a CBI inquiry was made by Sonawane '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, he added.

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 the 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 World Economic Forum summit.
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