CURSE OFTHE DEVI
Latest revelations suggest Gehlot’s ineptitude extends to the missing nurse case
Bhanwri Devi’s friend
Could Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot have saved Bhanwri Devi, the nurse and folk dancer who has been missing since September 1 and is believed to be dead? A fresh claim that she had informed him about her video with former Cabinet minister Mahipal Maderna much before being abducted has kicked up a political storm with the Opposition leader, Vasundhara Raje, demanding Raje demanding Gehlot’s resignation. On November 7, Indra Bishnoi, sister of Congress MLA Malkhan Singh Bishnoi, alleged that Bhanwri had met Gehlot a year ago. “She told him about a VCD showing her in a compromising position with Maderna,” she said. Indra and Malkhan—now a suspect in the case— had been close to Bhanwri for years.
The Chief Minister dismissed the claim, saying, “I meet many people and can’t remember if she met me too.” But even if Gehlot doesn’t remember any meeting, Maderna had himself briefed him on the issue in June and was advised to sort it out through Malkhan. Gehlot may have used the information to keep Maderna, a detractor, on tenterhooks, a senior Congress leader says. “Had Gehlot acted in time instead of procrastinating for political compulsions, Bhanwri Devi would not have gone missing,” says Arun Chaturvedi, state BJP chief.
In a joint statement, four BJP MLAS have demanded an independent inquiry over this issue involving a Scheduled Caste woman. In a further embarrassment, the local media ran stories in the first week of November linking Bhanwri to three of Gehlot’s trusted bureaucrats and accused the police of suppressing facts.
Indra levelled the charge after she was quizzed by the CBI in Jodhpur. Three tapes of her, Bhanwri, Sahi Ram Bishnoi, an absconder, and Sohan Lal Bishnoi, a prime accused now in jail, conversing had surfaced on November 4 and 5. Indra is quoted telling Bhanwri to stop blackmailing the minister.
The conspiracy to eliminate Bhanwri was hatched in August this year after she allegedly threatened Maderna at a public function. On September 1, Sohan Lal called her to his home in Bilara, in Jodhpur, for a monetary transaction. She was then forcefully shifted to a Bolero in the custody of Shahabuddin, a history-sheeter, and driven around to be handed over to six members of a Jalore-based Bishnoi gang in a Scorpio which has been linked to persons close to Maderna.
The Bolero was found in Palanpur in Gujarat. The Scorpio, and the men in it, are untraced. The CBI and police have failed to extract any information from Sohan Lal and Shahabuddin, who have been arrested. They maintain that she
“Bhanwri told Gehlot about a VCD showing her with Maderna in a compromising position.”