Ranchi, June 30: Palamau police today claimed to have arrested the murderer of Lalit Mehta, the social activist working for the cause of the NREGS, who was killed on May 18.
The police said the social activist was killed by highway robber Bihari Singh. They also recovered the motorcycle Mehta was riding when he was shot dead.
Police spokesperson and deputy inspector-general of police Raj Kumar Mallick said the arrest and the bike recovery have established beyond doubt that Mehta’s killing was a case of road robbery.
Social activists had created a furore stating that Mehta was killed as he had information about some irregularities in NREGS.
However, Mallick ruled out that possibility. “It is our advice to the social activists not to jump into conclusions,” Mallick said, referring to activists such as Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy organising demonstrations after the death.
The government had ordered a CBI probe into Mehta’s killing under pressure from Union rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and eminent social activists. The CBI is yet to register the case, though.
Mallick said the Palamau police were working on the murder mystery for some time. “When the police were not able to get any clue, it examined the criminal history in the area where Mehta was found dead. During investigation it found that one Vimlesh Dubey had been strangulated and stoned to death at the same spot some time ago,” Mallick said.
Palamau superintendent of police Deepak Verma said: “By getting an identical case, we could identify the gang responsible for the murder. The murder was committed by a gang led by Bihari Singh. Its members are Kamta Singh, Guddu Singh, Dilip Singh and Raju Singh.” However, they shifted to Chennai when there was furore over the murder, Verma said.
A few days ago, three of the gang returned to Palamau and Bihari was caught. He confessed, the police said.
The police recovered Mehta’s driving licence from Bihari’s possession. Bihari apparently confessed that they hid the two-wheeler Mehta was travelling on.
During the highway robbery, Bihari said, Mehta recognised Raju Singh, who insisted that the social activist be killed for their own safety.
They had stolen Rs 6,500 from Mehta, the police said.
Dreze said it was good that Mehta’s murderers have been arrested. “But the claims of the police should be scrutinised by an independent agency, as the administration would now say that the incident had nothing to do with huge irregularities in NAREGA,” he told The Telegraph over phone from Allahabad.
“It is important not just to catch the murderers, but also to unravel the entire plot. It is difficult to trust the district administration for this, given its record of lies and fabrication. A CBI inquiry is needed.”