Hit-And-Run Killings In Maharashtra: Failing Law And Order Doesn't Augur Well For Mahayuti

Krishna Dange

Jul 10, 2024, 12:34 PM | Updated Jul 11, 2024, 11:42 AM IST

Those involved in hit-and-run cases  should face consequences.(Representative image)
Those involved in hit-and-run cases should face consequences.(Representative image)
  • If the Mahayuti government fails to ensure punishment to those who are guilty, regardless of influence, it risks electoral repercussions in October.
  • An early morning visit to the Sassoon Docks is a routine for several retail fish sellers and wholesale buyers in Mumbai.

    Pradip and Kaveri Nakhwa, who hail from the city’s native Koli fishing community, were no exception to this pattern.

    However, a return journey from the docks to the couple’s home in Worli Koliwada on 7 July turned fatal for Kaveri.

    While riding pillion on a two wheeler along the Annie Besant Road in Worli, the couple was hit by an overspeeding luxury car being driven by the now arrested Mihir Shah (24). Pradip Nakhwa managed to survive but Kaveri succumbed to the injuries a few hours after the accident.

    A preliminary examination of Shah’s car recovered from another location revealed that he was driving the car under the influence of alcohol. After being on the run for two days, the accused was nabbed from Virar, a satellite town near Mumbai.

    Political Connections Of The Accused In The Scanner

    Hit-and-run cases involving accused from rich families driving under the influence of alcohol is not new in Mumbai or for that matter in any part in the country where scant regard is paid to road safety.

    However, this time it is different. From 19 May till date, there have been five widely reported hit-and-run cases in Maharashtra. Of these, three took place in the previous week itself.

    Notably, family members of the accused in at least three of five such cases have reportedly been in close relations to leaders from the ruling Mahayuti government with the father of the accused in the recent Mumbai case being a member of the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

    The 19 May incident, the first in the five cases, saw Vedant Agarwal (17), son of Pune-based realtor Vishal Agarwal, mowing down two individuals under the influence of alcohol in Pune. The latter was found to have been a close acquaintance of the Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislator Sunil Tingre.

    Vishal Agarwal is supposed to have contacted the NCP leader to seek help in changing the accused’s blood samples that contained traces of alcohol.

    In the 22 June incident, the overspeeding SUV of Mayur Mohite ran over a young motorcyclist returning home from salon in a village near Pune. The accused Mohite was identified as the nephew of the local Ajit Pawar-led NCP legislator Dilip Mohite.

    In the recent instance from Mumbai, the accused Mihir Shah’s father Rajesh Shah is a former Palghar district chief of the Shiv Sena. A scrap dealer with multiple business interests, Shah had sided with Chief Minister Shinde after the latter took control of the regional saffron party from Uddhav Thackeray in 2022.

    The other two recent hit-and-run incidents involved an accused’s car hitting two policemen on night patrol in Pune and a similar instance involving another policeman on the fringes of the city.

    Not Mere Hit-And-Run

    More than the deaths of the innocent in the cases mentioned earlier, what has enraged masses is the barbarity of the accused involved in these accidents.

    For instance, in the recent case from Mumbai, it has now been revealed that the accused Shah after crashing his vehicle against the victim Nakhwa couple’s two wheeler, asked his driver Rajrishi Bidawat, who was accompanying while Shah drove the car, to take the wheel.

    If the injury caused to the couple who lay on the road writhing in pain wasn’t enough, Shah as per an Indian Express report instructed his driver Bidawat to run the car over the now dead Kaveri Nakhwa again, to mislead the police investigation.

    As far as Shah asking his driver to drive the car after knocking down the couple is concerned, the accused is supposed to have taken a cue from the Pune case involving the intoxicated minor Agarwal running his sports car over two techies.

    In this case, the accused’s grandfather Surendra Agarwal reportedly forced the family driver Gangaram to take the blame and give a false testimony to the police that it was Gangaram himself who was driving the car when the incident took place and not the minor accused. When the driver did not agree, Surendra went to the extent of kidnapping the driver and confining him to a room in the family house.

    Apart from the novel ways devised by the accused and their family members to evade arrest in the Pune case, what enraged masses was the minor being let off by the city's Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) merely by making him write a 300-word essay as a punishment and granting him bail on the same day for a crime that led to loss of two lives.

    After a massive uproar and protests in the city, the police filed a review petition leading to the minor accused being sent to a juvenile correction centre.

    At present, the accused Vedant Agarwal’s parents and his grandfather continue to be under arrest for violating several laws such as letting the accused drive an unregistered vehicle, that too despite knowing that he is a minor.

    On the other hand, the Bombay High Court on 25 June ordered the release of the minor accused from the centre observing that his detention in the centre was in contravention of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act.

    Mahayuti’s Political Image Hit

    Considering that the families of the accused in the three of the five widely reported hit-and-run cases were closely related to elected representatives from the ruling government and that legislator in the Pune case involving minor supposedly suggested police to go easy on the accused has not gone down well with the people.

    Leaders from the coalition of opposition parties — Maha Vikas Aghadi — have been quick to gauge the public mood and capitalise on the same.

    In case of the Mumbai hit-and-run case involving Shiv Sena leader’s son, Congress Member of Parliament Varsha Gaikwad claimed that the state government's political interference was responsible for delay in the accused's arrest. Gaikwad also said that the police had not released the CCTV footage of the incident due to political pressure.

    On the other hand, Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar) leader Supriya Sule, also from the opposition, has specifically targetted Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Sule claimed that Fadnavis, who holds the charge of the Home Department, has failed to maintain law and order in the state which is why the accused felt emboldened to commit crimes. Sule later also demanded that Fadnavis must resign.

    Apart from politicians, common citizens too have expressed concerns over deteriorating law and order situation, particularly in Pune, after an intoxicated individual attempted to burn a female traffic police constable by pouring petrol over her.

    The social background of the accused in the Pune incident involving realtor’s minor son and the Mumbai case has also been in focus on social media networking sites. The accused and his family in the case are from the mercantile Agarwal community while the accused involved in the Mumbai case is said to be a Jain.

    In an emotionally charged political environment, the state is seeing Maratha reservation going on one side along with the sons of the soil versus Gujaratis and non-Maharashtrian businessmen narrative on the other.

    Political experts say, if the Mahayuti ruled government fails in convincing masses that it is committed to punishing criminals irrespective of their clout and socio-economic background, it may not augur well for the coalition in the state assembly polls scheduled three months from now in October.

    Staff Writer at Swarajya

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