83-year-old caught try­ing to smug­gle gold worth `19L, caught by cus­toms Munde plays the OBC card, vis­its Bhu­jbal amidst Maratha protests

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Pratik Salunke pratik.salunke@hin­dus­tan­times.com Suren­dra P. Gan­gan suren­dra.gan­gan@hin­dus­tan­times.com

The air in­tel­li­gence unit (AIU) of Cus­toms in­ter­cepted an 83-year-old man at the Mum­bai in­ter­na­tional air­port on Tues­day night for al­legedly at­tempt­ing to smug­gle gold bars worth Rs19 lakh.

The AIU sus­pect the accused, Har­jin­der Singh Ch­habra, may be work­ing as a car­rier for a gang op­er­at­ing from across the coun­try. Ch­habra was ap­pre­hended while re­turn­ing from Dubai. “The pas­sen­ger was fol­lowed on sus­pi­cion and he was found en­ter­ing the toi­let cabin near the im­mi­gra­tion counter,” said a high-rank­ing AIU officer.

An AIU of­fi­cial said Ch­habra con­cealed gold in a tis­sue box in the cabin.

“There are two pos­si­bil­i­ties. He may have had a doubt that we are fol­low­ing him af­ter which he de­cided to aban­don the gold in the toi­let or this could have been the plan, with the re­ceiver pick­ing it up later,” said the officer.

He said Ch­habra ini­tially de­nied keep­ing the gold, which was wrapped in a black car­bon paper. He, how­ever, con­fessed later.

“We checked his bag and found the same black car­bon paper, which was used in wrap­ping the gold in the toi­let. Af­ter this, he agreed,” said the officer.

As the state’s women and chil­dren de­vel­op­ment minister Pankaja Munde called on an un­well and im­pris­oned Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party leader Ch­ha­gan Bhu­jbal at JJ Hos­pi­tal, tongues be­gan wag­ging in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles about a pos­si­ble com­ing to­gether of Other Back­ward Classes (OBC) lead­ers in the state.

While Munde belongs to the Van­jari com­mu­nity, Bhu­jbal hails from the ‘Mali’ com­mu­nity — both come un­der OBC. Pankaja’s visit, termed by her office as a ‘cour­tesy Peo­ple par­tic­i­pate in a Maratha silent protest in Navi Mum­bai on Wed­nes­day.

call since both fam­i­lies share close re­la­tions’, comes in the back­drop of on­go­ing Maratha silent protests that have rat­tled the BJP gov­ern­ment and the OBC com­mu­nity. Bhu­jbal is un­der ar­rest over the Ma­ha­rash­tra Sadan scam, but was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal re­cently af­ter he com­plained of fever.

Six years ago, Pankaja’s fa­ther, the late Gopinath Munde and Bhu­jbal, both feel­ing side­lined by their par­ties, had united on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions to consolidate the po­si­tion of OBCs in the state. Munde had even of­fered to work un­der Bhu­jbal, his po­lit­i­cal ri­val, if he took on the man­tle of a na­tional OBC leader. The oc­ca­sion then was the apex court rul­ing that had backed reser­va­tions for OBCs in local self-gov­ern­ment bodies.

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