A week into the death of an Indian Navy sailor Suraj Dubey, police in Palghar are clueless as to what exactly had transpired after he reached Chennai airport on 30 January. His parents, meanwhile, have demanded that investigators find out if a man named ‘Irfan’ is involved in the incident.
During a visit to the spot where he immolated, reporters found that the place was hardly a few metres away from a cremation ground. The spot is in a hilly region adjacent to Vevji Vaijalpada — a tribal hamlet with nearly 400 people in Dahanu Taluka. Villagers said that a writhing Navy sailor Dubey had clambered down a hill, screaming for help, around 2:30 PM on 5 February.
“My uncle Sadu Ibhad heard a voice saying ‘bachao bachao (help, help)’. There were serious burns all over the man’s body. He asked for water. We got scared and alerted the gram panchayat, police and the hospital,” said resident Sanjay Ibhad. Dubey told the villagers the same kidnap story he told the Palghar police. “He told us that his hands were tied and face was covered,” Ibhad said.
Dubey’s statement could be incorrect as he was seen roaming freely in CCTV camera footages in Chennai. Ibhad said that multiple roads led to the area. “This spot is very close to Maharashtra and Gujarat border. One road comes from Kankradi village in Gujarat, another one is connected to the cremation ground. Vevji-Bordi Road mainly connects to this spot which can be reached via a car. After a point, one needs to walk deep inside to reach the spot where he was burnt,” Ibhad said.
“A team from Gholwad police traced the blood-stained stones and bushes and visited the spot where he was burnt. One matchbox, currency notes of ‘500 and ’10 were found there,” Ibhad added.
Media noticed several burnt patches in the area. “There were a few small fires in the jungle when we visited the crime spot. They were doused. Navy sailor Dubey might have discarded burnt clothes which lit the dry leaves,” said a police officer.
Gholwad police recorded the statements of five residents – Sanjay Ibhad, 30, his brother Ajay, 25, their uncle Sadu, Sandhu Merye, 35, and Lasikant Khekhlare, 40. Ibhad added that most villagers weren’t home on the day of the incident. “Most of the villagers had gone to Umran village in Gujarat to attend an elderly man’s last rites. Otherwise, someone would have heard the commotion and got to know of the crime earlier,” Ibhad said.
After he could not reach him, Navy sailor Dubey’s father, Mithilesh, filed a missing person’s complaint at Chainpur police station in Jharkhand on 1 February.
The local police were monitoring both his mobile handsets and got to know when a new SIM card was inserted in one of them. “We dialled the number and the person who responded said, ‘Kaun, kaun?’, so we asked ‘Tum kaun?’ and the person replied: ‘Irfan’. Then the call got disconnected and the cellphone was switched off,” said Mithilesh. “That was my son’s voice. He sounded petrified. He might have been trying to tell us that he is held captive by Irfan. The police must find out who is Irfan,” Mithilesh said.
CCTV cameras leading up to the crime spot have not yielded any clues so far. It has only been determined that Navy sailor took loans to invest in the stock market. However, Mithilesh said, “He had taken a home loan of Rs 8 lakh, which he was repaying. He was supposed to get married in May. Before leaving to join work, he gave me some money for wedding arrangements.”
Dubey’s cousin Vishal said that his moble numbers that were last seen in his WhatsApp profile are unavailable. “Either the killers deleted his WhatsApp or changed the settings,” Vishal said.