Main suspect himself suffers burns; 3 accused arrested

In an incident that sent shock waves across Maharashtra, Additional Collector of Nashik district Yashwant Sonawane was burnt to death by kerosene mafia in Manmad, Nashik, on Tuesday.

Popat Shinde, the main suspect, himself suffered 70 per cent burns and was admitted to hospital. The police have arrested three accused Raju Shirsat, Kachru Survalkar and Kachre. They have been charged with murder, wrongful restraint and use of criminal force to deter a public servant from doing his duty.

The incident took place around 2 p.m. when Mr. Sonawane was on his way to Nandgaon to attend a meeting.

Nashik Superintendent of Police Milind Bharambe told journalists at the site that Mr. Sonawane, who was going in his official vehicle, spotted a kerosene tanker. On suspicion, he went up to the tanker and found a person taking kerosene from the vehicle.

“Mr. Sonawane immediately called the supply inspector asking him to come over and conduct an inquiry. An argument ensued, after which four persons arrived on motorcycles and started to beat him up. They doused him with kerosene. Mr. Sonawane's driver and the personal assistant ran away fearing for their lives. By the time they reached the police station Mr. Sonawane was burnt to death,” Mr. Bharambe said.

Mr. Sonawane is survived by his wife and two sons.

Popat had a long history of black marketing of kerosene, the police said. In fact, the entire stretch of Manmad dotted with the storage tanks of the Indian Oil Corporation and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) is notorious for smuggling and black marketing of kerosene.

The police said the tanker from which Popat had been taking kerosene belonged to the BPCL. The vehicle is now in police custody.

Soft-spoken

Nashik Collector P. Velarasu told The Hindu that Mr. Sonawane was a soft-spoken officer maintaining good relations with everyone. He said the driver and the PA were in a state of shock and could not give cogent evidence. Only a detailed probe would reveal whether the killing was on the spur of the moment or a premeditated conspiracy.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Umesh Chandra Sarangi said: “The incident is deplorable in the extreme. We need to take strict action against the offenders. The IAS association would take a decision on what needs to be done. This kind of assault needs to be condemned.”

Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat visited the incident spot. Condemning the incident, he said the government would get to the root of the menace of kerosene smuggling.