MUMBAI: BJP leader and medical education minister Girish Mahajan, known to be a trusted aide of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, and ten police officers found themselves embroiled in a controversy on Wednesday for attending the marriage of a relative of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim in Nashik on May 19.
While one of the ten cops who attended is an assistant police commissioner, the other nine are those at the inspector level. And Mahajan himself was not alone at the wedding: he was accompanied by BJP legislators Devyani Farande, Balasaheb Sanap and Seeema Hiray, Nashik mayor Ranjana Bhanasi and deputy mayor Prathamesh Gite (both of the BJP) and a section of local municipal councillors.
Nashik police commissioner Ravindra Singhal has ordered an inquiry into the presence of the ten policemen at the event, and their statements have been recorded. The CM has called for a report from Singhal on the matter.
Singhal confirmed that the bride was Dawood’s wife’s niece. He told TOI, “Our information is that Dawood’s wife and the bride’s mother are sisters.”
Mahajan admitted that he had attended the marriage but told TOI he was not aware of the fact that the bride’s family was linked to Dawood. The groom is the nephew of local Muslim community leader Shahar A Khateeb. “I attended the marriage on the invitation of Khateeb, the most respected religious leader of the Muslim community. Khateeb has been one of the pillars of social activities undertaken by the medical education department in the Nashik region. He had taken keen interest in a medical camp organised by the department in Nashik and Nandurbar and also in last year’s Kumbh mela,” Mahajan said.
Mahajan claimed that a day after the marriage, he was told that the bride’s family was related to Dawood. “I am guardian minister of Nashik. I receive many invitations, but it is not possible to check the antecedents of people. In the present case, I attended the marriage since I personally knew Khateeb. I was accompanied by our party legislators and the mayor and deputy mayor of Nashik,” Mahajan said.
Singhal said, “No cases have been registered against the bride’s family, nor is there a previous history. However, we are inquiring into the presence of senior police officials at the marriage. It’s not an investigation, it’s an inquiry.”
A senior police officer said the ten cops under scrutiny are assistant police commissioner Sachin Gore and inspectors Madhukar Kad, Somnath Tambe, Sanjay Deshmukh, Samsherkhan Pathan, Manoj Shinde, Hanumant Ware, Kantilal Chavan, Vinod Kedar and Vijay Londhe.
Confirming that their statements had been recorded, the officer said, “We sought information from them on a) the purpose of their visit, b) who had invited them and c) whether they were aware of antecedents of the bride’s family,” he said.
Another police officer said the cops admitted that they had attended the wedding and reasoned that they had done so only due to their good relationship with the bridegroom’s uncle.
The officer endorsed Mahajan’s views, saying Khateeb was an important person in Nashik and was not even distantly associated with Dawood’s activities. “Khateeb has been helping us in maintaining communal harmony and peace in the city. He has been a member of the peace committee for a long period,” he said.
Mahajan happens to be the second BJP man in the Fadnavis government to have found himself involved in a controversy over Dawood. Earlier, it was Eknath Khadse in his capacity as revenue minister. Hacker Manish Bhangale had alleged in 2016 that Khadse had received calls from Dawood’s sister. Subsequently, it was found that the allegation was baseless+ and that Bhangale’s credentials were doubtful.