Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh on Monday said that the sand mafia in Madhya Pradesh, who allegedly burnt alive journalist Sandeep Kothari, is flourishing under the state patronage.
“This is not the first incident where people have been killed because of the Sand Mafia. During my tenure, we had given the right to give leases to the Gram Panchayats, to the local bodies and they were collecting the revenues,” Singh told the media here.
“Now, the BJP has centralised the allocation of sand mines in Bhopal under the huge racket going out under which the Chief Minister’s relations, his brother, his nephews, all are involved in illegal sand mines. We have raised this issue number of times but unfortunately nothing has moved,” he added.
Singh further said that anyone who raises voice against the Sand Mafia is either harmed or punished.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rameshwar Sharma on Monday said that the Madhya Pradesh Government is very cautious about the safety of its people and that the culprits in the murder case of the journalist who was burnt alive, will be severely dealt with.
“Whether a journalist or not, the Madhya Pradesh Government is very cautious about the safety of its people. Irrespective of the background of the culprits, they’ll be severely dealt with,” said Sharma.
Reports suggest that a 40-year-old journalist Sandeep Kothari was burnt alive allegedly by members of Madhya Pradesh’s sand mafia in the state’s Balaghat district.
Police was reported as saying that Kothari had quit journalism to become a ‘history-sheeter.’ However, a former MLA from Balaghat, Kishore Samrite, told PTI that Kothari was falsely implicted in more than dozen cases.
He said, ” He was targeted as he wrote against and lodged complaints against manganese and sand mafia and other mighty people involved in organised crimes. His family too was tormented by mafia.”
Locals in Balaghat echoed Samrite’s version. They said that Kothari’s family was being “tormented” by the sand mafia in the past as he had “exposed” their activities.
A local journalist told Indian Express that Kothari was a fearless journalist, who had written many times about the manganese mining mafia in the district adding that most cases against him were orchestrated.
Police said that the two accused arrested by them were Vishal Tandi and Brijesh Duharwal, who hailed from Katangi. They had allegedly kidnapped Kothari and taken him to a railway track before burning him alive. The third accused is said to be on the run.
Kothari was missing since June 19 and his relatives had lodged a missing person’s complaint with the Katangi police station on June 20.
Police said that both the accused had confessed to killing Kothari.
Madhya Pradesh is notorious for its brutal sand mafia. In 2012, the members of sand mafia had allegedly crushed a young IPS officer, Narendra Kumar, to death under a stone-laden tractor trolley.
More recently on June 4 this year, a woman mining inspector and eight home guards were attacked in the state’s Shajapur on Wednesday, allegedly by sand mafia, during a raid on the banks of Nevaj River.