| Meher Bhargava
Lucknow, March 29: An injured murder accused melted into a maze of crowded bylanes, leaving police fumbling for an answer even as confusion over aliases added to the woes of investigators probing tease protester Meher Bhargava’s fatal shooting.
Lucknow senior superintendent of police Ashutosh Pandey said Sachin Pahari, a key accused in the murder, “took advantage” of the congested Kaiserbagh area to escape after being shot at. But two of his associates were caught and were being questioned.
Late tonight, one of the arrested men, Sunny Rawat, was identified by Meher’s driver as the “main killer”.
Meher’s husband Luv, a local Congress leader who visited Pandey, confirmed that the family driver had identified Rawat.
“His interrogation is on and we are going to make a breakthrough soon in the case,” Pandey said.
Meher was shot, barely 100 metres from the Lucknow police superintendent’s office, as she protested against lewd comments Pahari and some others were passing against her daughter-in-law. She died in a Delhi hospital on March 25 after battling for life for nearly four weeks.
The Kaiserbagh encounter came a day after Uttar Pradesh Opposition leader Mayavati and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Meher’s family and called for a CBI probe.
Pandey, who has been under fire for going slow on the probe, said around 1.30 in the afternoon the police traced Pahari through his mobile to Kaiserbagh, an area where he is popular. When the police raided the area, the accused opened fire, forcing the search team to retaliate.
His men, the officer added, had to exercise restraint while exchanging fire because the area was crowded.
Pandey said Pahari was the main accused in the case and was also known as Amit and that there were cases against Amit in Allahabad and other cities.
But Meher’s family believes Amit and Pahari are two different persons. “My wife told me several times at the hospital that it was Amit and not Pahari who shot her.”
Although the police have obtained a photograph of Amit, a history-sheeter from Mughalsarai, Bhargava’s relatives and witnesses have refused to confirm that he was the same man who shot her.
About today’s raid, Luv said he was “extremely unhappy over the way” it was conducted. “I told this to the chief minister. But he said give me some time to nab the main accused. I don’t know what to say.”
Pandey insisted he was sure Amit and Pahari were the same man.
Police officials claimed Pahari is a “hardened criminal” who uses several aliases and is wanted in connection with several murder and extortion cases. They also said Pahari’s telephone number matched with that of Amit.
Sources said chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav is keeping tabs on the probe.