An accident too many

Nanded, 2007

Occurring under similarly suspicious circumstances less than a year after the first incident, another blast in Nanded is similarly mishandled by the police and raises similar demands for a thorough investigation

Around midnight on February 9-10, 2007, Nanded town was rocked by yet another acci dental explosion, the second in less than a year. This time it was a bakery shop: Amol Biscuits. Two persons were killed in the incident. One of them, Pandurang Bhagwan Amilkanthwar, a former Shiv Sena shakha pramukh (branch leader) was apparently also linked to the Bajrang Dal. His cousin, Dnyaneshwar Manikwar, also present on the spot, sustained over 70 per cent burn injuries. Initially admitted to a Nanded hospital, Manikwar was inexplicably moved to the JJ Hospital in distant Mumbai. He succumbed to the burn injuries a week after the incident.

The explosion bore a marked resemblance to the earlier blast on April 6, 2006 (see main story on Nanded blasts). There is a disquieting similarity between the two incidents. Both were accidental. Those present on the spot in both incidents were Hindu extremists. And in both cases the local police attempted a cover-up.

The April 2006 incident was sought to be explained away as an accidental explosion at a site where fireworks were stored. A similar cover-up was attempted in the 2007 incident, with the local police initially registering a case of accidental death and injury caused by a fire due to an electrical short circuit. But a day later the critically injured Dnyaneshwar Manikwar told senior police officials that in fact his deceased cousin and he were trapped in a fire they had intentionally started using five litres of petrol, hoping to make false insurance claims.

A three-member Concerned Citizen’s Inquiry (CCI) team headed by a retired judge, Justice Kolse Patil, and with this correspondent as convener, visited Nanded for an on-the-spot inquiry on February 17 and 18, 2007. During the visit the team met the superintendent of police, Nanded district, Fatehsingh Patil. In the presence of other senior police officers, Patil stated clearly that though investigations were still on and the police was open to receiving information from all quarters he was prima facie confident that this incident was nothing like the earlier incident of April 2006 and was simply a fire created to claim insurance money. In a separate interview the inspector general of police (IGP), Nanded range, Dr Suryaprakash Gupta, said the same thing. According to the police, the fire story made more sense because a bomb blast would have blown the deceased Pandurang to bits. It would not just leave his body badly charred.

The team’s investigation however indicated that the facts on the ground simply did not cohere with the theory the police seemed convinced about. Following its own field visit and interviews with a cross-section of top district officials and local citizens, the CCI commissioned a team of experts to visit the site and give their findings on what could have caused such an explosion. The major findings of the CCI team, incorporating the findings of the expert group, are as follows:

  • According to the police panchnama, the injured person gave two statements to the police while in the Nanded hospital. But the police panchnama is silent on whether this severely injured person, who had a tracheotomy tube through his throat, was in any position to speak. Nor does the panchnama mention whether the severely injured person was conscious and had any time or place orientation at the time.
  • The explosion hurled the large metal shutter in the shop front across the road to a distance about 40 feet away. Window frames were burnt and glasses cracked. Walls had cracked and the site was in complete disarray. Glass panes of the ventilators located not just in the godown but in neighbouring rooms of the house owned by Shankarrao Shivram Mangalikar, including the kitchen, sitting room and bedroom, had shattered. There were marks of some substances on the kitchen floor.
  • A scooter parked on the road outside the godown at a six-seven foot distance from it was completely charred.
  • Spot inspections by the CCI team and photographic evidence showed that the gas cylinder in the kitchen adjacent to the bakery shop remained completely unscathed. This would be inexplicable in case of a fire fuelled by five litres of petrol in the adjacent room.
  • The godown had two wooden doors, one iron shutter, one window and two ventilators. One door flew and landed in the hall because of the explosion. The ventilators did not have any glass. One window was broken and burnt and had fallen out. Food items, plastic and organic materials used for packing were still lying unburnt in the godown when the team visited the spot 10 days after the incident. If there was a fire, as the police claimed there was, all these things would have been completely burnt and the windows and ceilings of the rooms would have been blackened and charred. The plaster on the walls and ceilings displayed cracks indicative of shock and heat effect. The indicators are that there was a disproportionate development of shock waves but correspondingly no burns. This suggests a blast, not a fire.
  • An explosion caused by some unstable and liquid organic substances cannot be ruled out. According to the expert group, such substances are highly unstable, can generate a very high temperature, start a fierce chemical reaction resulting in an ignition, then flames and thereafter an explosion. The flames are at such high temperatures that a person can be burnt alive in five-10 seconds. This is the most plausible cause of the explosion in the godown.
  • There was no explanation from the authorities for the existence of nails and blades strewn in some quantity around the godown. These could have been used as pellets for the potential explosive.
  • The team was also told by citizens requesting anonymity that a police officer from a neighbouring police station who is closely involved in the ongoing investigation actually supervised critical evidentiary material being collected and spirited away from the spot.
  • Taking into consideration all the factors mentioned above, the inference is that it was not a planned explosion but an impact explosion created due to the handling of large stocks of explosive/flammable materials stored here. The handling could have been for transportation to another place.
  • The CCI’s preliminary findings were made public through press conferences organised in Mumbai and in Delhi. Over the next year four applications under the Right to Information Act were filed with the police for an update on their investigations but no reply was forthcoming. In response to a complaint in this regard filed by this correspondent in mid-June 2008, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the police. The hearing is scheduled for mid-September.

(A full report of the preliminary findings of the Concerned Citizen’s Inquiry is available at

Archived from Communalism Combat, July-August 2008. Year 15, No.133, Maharashtra, Cover Story 6




Related Articles