Mumbai: While ordering the release of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) leader Dhananjay Desai on January 17, the Bombay high court set stringent bail conditions. Desai, the prime accused in the four-and half-year-old murder case of IT engineer Mohsin Shaikh, was strictly prohibited from making any public appearances and running any organisations, particularly the HRS, till the end of the trial.
Justice Sadhana Jadhav while granting Desai bail, observed: “The applicant shall not in any manner whatsoever involve in any public/political activities related to or organised at the behest of Hindu Rashtra Sena or even otherwise.”
However, the order was violated within moments of his release from Yerwada jail on February 9.
Pune roads leading to his residence from Yerwada Central Jail to Paud village were blocked for nearly an hour as his supporters gathered in large numbers of cars and bikes, chanting “Jai Shri Ram” throughout.
Members of the HRS were so elated that they burst crackers on the street, whirling saffron flags all along the route. Although Desai did not make any public statement, his supporters made his presence felt with chants of “Jai Hindu Rashtra”.
His followers also broadcasted the public rally on social media, which is also prohibited by the high court. Justice Jadhav had made Desai take the following undertaking as one of the primary bail conditions.
“I (Desai) undertake not to publish/broadcast any speeches or interviews or bytes on any social media namely WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. in any manner whatsoever organisation till the conclusion of trial.”
Mohsin’s younger brother Mubeen told The Wire that it was shocking how Desai and his followers were allowed to publicly display their power despite the fact that he is accused of murder and rioting. “The murder accused is allowed to have such a grand show on the road even when the court has clearly prohibited him and the police allows him and his followers to run amok. It is disheartening,” he told The Wire over the phone from his hometown Solapur.
Soon after Desai’s release, the Yerwada police booked him and his followers under several non-bailable sections of rioting and unlawful assembly, but no arrests have been made so far.
Kiran Londhe, assistant police inspector of the Hadapsar police station where Shaikh’s murder investigation has been conducted, confirmed the incident. “Soon after his release, his men gathered outside Yerwada jail and created public nuisance. Every participant, including Desai, was booked for rioting and other sections of the Indian Penal Code for unlawful assembly,” Londhe said.
He, however, did not comment on whether the police will be moving the high court for cancellation of his bail. “That decision will have to be taken on the commissioner of police’s level,” he claimed.
Desai, leader of the fringe group was named as the mastermind behind Shaikh’s killing on June 2, 2014. According to Shaikh’s brother, Mubeen, who is also a complainant and a key witness to the killing, a huge mob of men had gathered outside a masjid in Hadapsar where Mohsin and he, along with a few other friends had gone to offer namaz. These men had executed the attack on the behest of Desai, the chargesheet states.
Mohsin and Riyaz’s Pathani shirt and skull cap were a giveaway of their religious identity. The men, all belonging to the HRS, had allegedly chased Mohsin and Riyaz in the bylanes of Pune and had hit them with hockey sticks. While Riyaz had managed to escape, Mohsin succumbed to his injury after one of the assailants banged a cement block on his head.
Thirty-one-year-old Mubeen, Mohsin’s younger brother, who works at a private firm in Solapur, their hometown, said life has not been kind towards his family. With one jolt after another, he said, his family has not been able to out of the trauma of losing a young man to mob hatred.
“That day we did not just lose a son, but also this family’s source of happiness. Bhai (Mohsin) was the one who gave the family the hope to dream for a better life. He was diligent and also someone who was dedicated to his family. My parents, especially my father, had dreamt of a more comfortable life as we grew up and took financial burden off his head,” Mubeen said.
Shaikh’s father Mohammed Sadiq, who was closely following the case, died in December after a prolonged heart ailment.
It has been nearly five years and the case has not made any progress. Of the 21 accused who have been arrested, 19, including Desai, are now out on bail. On Sadiq’s insistence, the then chief minister of the state and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan had appointed special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam to handle the case. But Nikam, without giving any clear reasons, quit the case. In 2017, the high court stayed the trail after Desai moved the court seeking to be discharged.
Azhar Tamboli, a human rights activist who has been fighting the case in the court on the behalf of Shaikhs, said his death was right at the onset of the BJP government’s formation in 2014, and until this government falls, there is no hope. “Just follow the several developments in the case. How the prosecution has shown very little interest to seek justice for Mohsin. Desai was the 19th person to be released on bail. Before him, 18 others, all assailants, were released. The state has shown no interest to put the case on trial,” said Tamboli. He has been closely following the development in the case, opposing every application – right from the bail to quashing of FIR – in courts.
Tamboli said he and the Shaikh family did not know that Desai had applied for bail in high court. “We have been intervening each time an application is moved by the accused. But this was carefully done by Desai’s lawyer and even the prosecution did not inform us. We got to know only after the bail was granted,” he added.
The same court in 2016 had denied Desai bail under the pretext that he had urged Hindus to “wage war against Muslims on religious ground.”
“On 19.1.2014, despite the fact that the permission was rejected, Hindu Rashtra Sena held a public meeting and the present applicant had delivered speech by which he had incited feelings of hatred in the minds of Hindus against Muslims. The language was not only ferocious but the applicant had made an unconstitutional speech. The transcript of the said speech is part of the compilation of the chargesheet. The people were urged to wage a war against Muslims on religious grounds. An attempt was being made to create an imbalance in the social harmony of the society,” Justice Jadhav had observed in 2016.
Tamboli said it was rather shocking to find the same court granting bail three years later. “And then as soon as Desai is set free, he indulges in the same violent activity to flare up communal disharmony that the court had raised concerns about in 2016. It is a disturbing development.”
Soon after Mohsin’s death, his family had met Chavan, who, Mubeen claimed had assured him a government job. A local MLA in Solapur had also assured the family monetary help. “I have written over hundred letters to every possible political leaders and government authorities. Neither the job opportunity nor any financial aid was provided to us. My father died fighting meanwhile, and my mother is perennially unwell ever since,” Mubeen told The Wire.
He further added that he is consulting his lawyer and looking to move the Supreme Court against Desai’s release. “Even after staying in jail, nothing seems to have changed. The moment he was released, he returned to the same old behaviour of publicly spreading hatred. We will bring this to the Supreme Court’s notice,” he added.