After a night-long cordon and search operation, Madhya Pradesh’s former Finance Minister Raghavji was arrested from an apartment in the posh Koh-e-Fiza locality here on Tuesday afternoon. A former male aide of the leader had accused him of sodomy on July 5. The police lost track of Raghavji after his 79th birthday party in his constituency Vidisha, 75 km north of Bhopal.
Bhopal’s SP (South) Anshuman Singh told The-Hindu that an informant gave them Raghavji’s location. “By Monday evening, we figured out that he was in Bhopal [district]. More than 10 areas were raided. Last night we cordoned off Koh-e-Fiza with more than 200 officers. On specific information, we obtained legal permission to break open the lock of flat 102, Rashi Prabha Apartments, where we found him.”
The police have faced flak for going slow on the investigation. While the complaint was filed on Friday, the FIR was registered only on Sunday, after a six-and-a-half-hour-long interview of the 29-year-old plaintiff. They were also accused by the Congress and the press of stage managing complaints by the plaintiffs’ family, who said he was missing for four years. The plaintiff had also accused the Habibganj Police of assaulting him along with Raghavji’s former gunman.
“It was embarrassing. Since Sunday night we haven’t slept,” a senior officer told this newspaper. “The IG [Upendra Jain] went home at 3 a.m. this morning. We searched more than 80 homes in an area filled with big shots. He was one step ahead, always. This is a sensitive case, so we had to follow every procedure.”
According to an officer, police picked up a signal on Monday night from a mobile phone known to be used by Raghavji in Koh-e-Fiza. Mr. Singh began to squeeze his network of sources close to the ruling elite, one of whom indicated that the building was a safe house.
“There are 12 apartments there. Four were locked. We got two opened by neighbours. For the other two, we had to get legal permission. Twenty of us led by SP (North Bhopal) Arvind Saxena raided flat 102 at around 12.30 p.m. Raghavji’s wife Hiraben was in one room chanting with prayer beads. She continued chanting even after we entered. In another room sat Raghavji looking at the ceiling. When we entered, he merely said, “chaliye” (let’s go) and came with us.”
Raghavji was brought to Habibganj Police Station, which he had inaugurated in 2009. Officers filled out forms over tea. “We didn’t offer him anything,” said an officer. “We don’t need him in police custody. In fact, I am not comfortable with him in my thana.”
He was taken to the Medicolegal Institute for a check up before being presented in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Sanjay Pandey. While entering the court Raghavji said, “I am here of my own will. Reports of arrest are wrong.”
His lawyers claimed he called up the police to give himself up and demanded bail on grounds that he had insomnia and had undergone angioplasty recently. Justice Pandey sent Raghavji to judicial remand till July 22. He was sent to Bhopal Central Prison.