The 63-year-old suffered at least 17 wounds; prominent Shiv Sena leader and former municipal corporator Ashok Sawant was brutally stabbed to death outside his home in Mumbai. He was returning home from a meeting around 11 p.m. on Sunday night when two persons who lay in wait, pounced on him with knives and choppers outside his house, a police team rushed him to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on admission. Police have checked CCTV footages in the locality and have identified one of the two killers. The preliminary motive behind the crime appeared to be extortion.
Extortion and Shiv Sena go parallel; there are several examples where Shiv Sena leaders demand fixed haftas (bribe) and they even ask extortion money from small time businessmen, builders and hawkers. In 2011, Santosh Shinde, Sena shakha pramukh Santosh Gharat and Vinod Mishra stopped a contractor, Manmad Qureshi and demanded Rs 1,000. When he refused to pay, they allegedly assaulted him. Qureshi lodged an FIR against them an hour after the incident. Shinde reportedly confessed to having demanded the money. Shinde claimed that he was collecting the money for party-related work. There are many such examples — people are fed-up with the high handedness of Shiv Sena leaders. From routine life to festive seasons, people in various businesses are forced to pay money for the party. Anyways, in this case I don’t know what exactly had happened, but extortion is not new thing with the party and killing of Shiv Sainiks is a part of underworld activity in Mumbai.
Last year, a 36-year-old Shiv Sena worker, who was aspiring to contest the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) polls, was allegedly hacked to death by unidentified persons at Triveni Park area on Nashik Road in Nashik. The victim, Surendra alias Gharya Shejval, a resident of Canal Road, located near Nashik Road Central Jail, had died on the spot. Shejval had quit the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and joined Shiv Sena. Shejval was returning home along with his friend on their two-wheeler after visiting a Shiv Sena corporator’s office around 9.30 pm. The accused followed them in a car and attacked Shejval with swords and sharp weapons, in which he died on the spot.
After going through footage from CCTV cameras in the area, Police identified one killer who had identified the other killers – one of them is a well-known criminal called Jagga. Ashok Sawant had started a cable business a few years ago and had complained to the police after he reportedly began to receive extortion calls the past two days. But he did not seek any security or cover. Sawant’s brother Subhash Sawant is an assistant police commissioner at the Mumbai Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad.
As usual, the parts of Kandivali East observed a spontaneous shutdown after the killing of the two-time municipal corporator. This is another irony; people are made to mourn by force. Anyways, this is the reason, somewhere Shiv Sena losing its sheen.
In 2014, a local Shiv Sena leader Ramesh Jadhav from suburban Malad was stabbed to death. All the five accused, who stayed in the same locality, were tracked down from their hideouts and arrested. Jadhav, who owned an imitation jewellery business, a night before the murder, had tried to mediate and calm down the clashing groups over a trivial local issue. Tension prevailed in Malad and Dindoshi areas after the murder as scores of Sena workers held demonstrations demanding immediate arrest of the accused.
In 2012, Gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the murder of Shiv Sena politician Kamlakar Jamsandekar in 2007. Gawli was convicted along with 10 others. Jamsandekar was shot dead at his home in suburban Ghatkopar. Gawli was arrested in May 2008. According to the chargesheet, a sum of Rs 30 lakh was paid to the Gawli gang for eliminating the Sena corporator over a land deal. Gawli was elected as an MLA from Mumbai’s Chinchpokli constituency in 2004 on an Akhil Bhartiya Sena ticket and completed his term. Shiv Sena leaders have butchered many people around and they too got brutally killed by their rivals.
Five years since the death of Balasaheb Thackeray, Shiv Sena, Maharashtra’s nativist party that he founded and led for half a century is a changed outfit.
The political landscape in India and in Maharashtra has changed remarkably since the death of the maverick politician. In 2012, Shiv Sena was in the opposition with just 45 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly. Though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had one more seat, it was still considered the Shiv Sena’s junior ally in Maharashtra. And Thackeray was like a father figure to the saffron siblings. Now, Thackeray’s party is in power in Maharashtra and at the centre, though one-time junior partner BJP wields the reins. Sena now has 63 MLAs in Maharashtra, won entirely under Uddhav’s leadership in the October 2014 elections, and 18 members of the Lok Sabha, some of whom may have benefitted from the 2014 Modi wave, as the two parties fought in alliance. The party also has three Rajya Sabha members. But now even after being in power, Shiv Sainik’s could not shed their image of bad boys. Party remains in news for one or the other reason, and most of the time for its controversy.
In spite of all odds one must not restore to violence and killings. Hope investigation in Ashok Sawant’s case brings out the motive and truth. Till then, may his soul rest in peace.
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