| A candlelight vigil in Hyderabad to protest against the desecration of a statue of BR Ambedkar in Kanpur. (Snaps India); Deepak Nikhalje (below)
Mumbai, Dec. 1: The law may have caught up with Navjyot Sidhu, Shibu Soren and Sanjay Dutt, but it’s fighting shy of gangster Chhota Rajan’s brother.
The police have failed to arrest Deepak Nikhalje, accused of spearheading street violence yesterday, allegedly because of shielding by the state government which today ordered a high-level probe into the statewide mayhem.
Nikhalje is a leading activist of the Republican Party of India (Athavle), which is part of the state’s ruling coalition.
Yesterday, he had led a mob of rampaging Dalit protes- ters in northeast Mumbai’s Chembur that destroyed shops and allegedly stoned vehicles and burnt buses while protesting the desecration of an Ambedkar statue in Kanpur.
But Nikhalje stayed at large despite the police listing him as “wanted” along with 150 others for rioting.
“We know where he is but have not got the go-ahead from the home department to arrest him. Our information is that many of those involved in Thursday’s violence in Chembur belonged to the Rajan gang,” said a top officer.
With the Nationalist Congress Party trying to garner Dalit votes ahead of the civic elections in the city, the home department headed by party leader R.R. Patil is walking a tightrope. The RPI (Athavle) is an ally and can help it bag crucial Dalit votes.
Deepak has always managed to evade the police despite allegedly being one of Rajan’s main contacts in Mumbai. He is said to be a major financier of the RPI. He also produced the Sanjay Dutt-starrer Vaastav based on the life of his gangster brother.
“He has been questioned by the police in the past in connection with extortion threats by the Rajan gang,” an officer said.
Normality, however, returned to Mumbai today after RPI leaders Ramdas Athavale and Prakash Ambedkar called for peace. Curfew was lifted in several towns.
Other than ordering the probe, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has called an all-party meeting to discuss the violence in which three persons died and three trains and scores of buses were torched.
Four persons have been arrested for torching the Deccan Queen Express, and 19 others for the violence in Mumbai and Thane.
The probe team, headed by additional director-general of police (law and order) Sanjeev Dayal, will find out the causes of the violence.
Nagpur police have refused permission for a protest rally in the town by Dalit organisations on December 6, Ambedkar’s 50th death anniversary. Nagpur saw huge protests last month over the killing of a Dalit family in Khairlanji village.
“The demands made by Dalits over Khairlanji were met,” Deshmukh said. “I do not think Thursday’s violence was a result of simmering discontent…. But we will look into this aspect in the probe.”
He said the government would decide tomorrow whether to declare December 6 a public holiday.
The police want such a step because a large Dalit turnout is expected in the city on the day, which is also the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.