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Vadodara 9 surrender after prod from MLA

Ahmedabad, May 25: Nine persons accused of stabbing and setting on fire Mohammad Rafiq Vohra, a father of two teenagers, in Vadodara on May 2 surrendered today.

Local BJP MLA Bhupendra Lakhawala is believed to have played a key role in persuading the accused to surrender with a promise of decent treatment in custody. All nine lived in Rafiq’s neighbourhood and are employed in private companies. None has a criminal background, police said.

After the 38-year-old was dragged out of his Tata Sierra and killed on a road near his house, his brother had named 14 people in an FIR. The nine who surrendered are Nilesh Pandya, 32, Jitendra, 28, Chinu Oza, 25, Sunil Dhobi, 35, Sanjay Vaidya, 24, Hardik Rawal, 26, Bharat Thakor, 29, Mahesh Pandya, 35, and Vikram Desai, 27.

Investigating officer Kaushik Pandya said: “We have been constantly visiting their houses, persuading their family members and relatives that it is in their interest to surrender.”

Five of the men are residents of Riddhi Siddhi Society, two of Gayatri Kripa Society, one of Sagar Flats and another of Devi Chamber, about 500 metres across Ajwa Road from Kismet Society, where Rafiq lived with his family.

Pandya said he will seek seven days’ remand when the accused are produced in court tomorrow.

Four accused are still at large. One, Nilkanth Marathe, was arrested earlier and is in judicial custody.

Rafiq, whose family owns oil tankers, was killed the day after a 300-year-old dargah was razed, triggering communal clashes.

All the accused have claimed innocence, saying they do not know who killed the businessman and blamed his death on mob violence after a rumour spread that a speeding vehicle had crushed some people. Rafiq was attacked because he was driving very fast, they said.

Pandya said the accused have denied links with any political outfit.

But Vadodara mayor Sunil Solank, former deputy mayor Shailesh Soota and BJP city president Shabdsaran Brahmbhatt joined a dharna organised by families of the accused saying they have been framed.

“No injustice” will be done to the 14 “innocent” people named in the FIR, the leaders promised.

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