Former Rajasthan Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Whip Rajendra Singh Rathore was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here on Thursday for his alleged involvement in the Dara Singh encounter killing. Mr. Rathore, a close ally of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, was presented before the Special Court soon after. The court remanded him to judicial custody till April 9.

There were protests outside the CBI office and in the premises of the Special Court by BJP workers as Mr. Rathore was taken into custody, charge-sheeted and then taken to jail. At one point, Ms. Raje and BJP State President Arun Chaturvedi, senior leaders Ghanshyam Tiwari and G.C. Kataria also joined the protests which started at the State party headquarter on Sardar Patel Marg. The MLAs and party workers then marched to the CBI office situated on Tilak Marg a few furlongs away.

Mr. Rathore had it coming for sometime as the other accused in the encounter killing of Dara Singh alias Daria — which took place on October 23, 2006 on the suburbs of Jaipur — including Additional Director General of Police A.K. Jain, Inspector General A. Ponnuchamy and other police functionaries, are already in custody. The incident had taken place when the BJP government was in power in the State.

Mr. Rathore, after joining a meeting of party leaders and MLAs in the morning at the BJP office reached CBI office accompanied by his son, Parakram Singh. The CBI took him into custody immediately. Around 1 p.m., he was presented before the Special Court.

The BJP leadership, as if in anticipation, had been holding meetings for the past few days. The party has announced a State-wide protest on April 7 against the arrest of Mr. Rathore. The party leadership appears to have decided to make it a political issue. Ms. Raje and Mr. Chaturvedi, talking to media accused the State government of “acting politically.” With these kinds of actions, the government was trying to create a divide among various communities in the State, Ms. Raje alleged.

The BJP leaders also charged the State government with misusing the CBI. “The agency was misused in this manner in the Gopalgarh [communal violence] case and in the Bhanwari Devi case as well,” Ms. Raje said. The Gehlot government was trying to hide its mistakes with this kind of action but this would only prove counter-productive, she asserted.

The CBI has charged Mr. Rathore, a Rajput strongman from Churu district, with “criminal conspiracy” under Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code.” Mr. Rathore, who started early with student politics in the Rajasthan University, was initially with the Janata Party prior to coming under the tutelage of former Vice President of India, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Mr. Rathore has been the ‘missing link' we have been talking about in the case,” the CBI said in its charge sheet.

Wife's letter to PM

Perhaps the arrest came at the tether end as on March 30, Susheela Devi, the widow of Dara Singh, had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complaining of CBI complicity in the case. She had sought action against the CBI Director and the Attorney General, accusing them of attempting to protect Mr. Rathore under pressure from senior political leaders. She had also threatened to immolate herself before the Prime Minister's residence if he (the PM) “failed to get her justice”.

Dara Singh, who hailed from Rajgarh tehsil in Churu, was once an associate of Mr. Rathore.

For some reason they reportedly fell apart and became rivals. The CBI took over the case following a direction from the Supreme Court after Ms. Susheela Devi had petitioned it. The first charge sheet in the case was filed on June 3, 2011.

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