In a seemingly unforeseen twist, a convict in the 2002 Godhra Sabarmati Express train burning case has now been reportedly linked with the murder of BJP councillor Hiren Patel at Jhalod municipality in Gujarat's Dahod district two weeks back.
For the uninitiated, Hiren Patel, former vice-president and incumbent councillor of the Jhalod municipality, was run over on September 27 by an unidentified car while out on a morning walk. After he succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital, media agencies reporting on his death seemingly took it to be a case of a hit-and-run.
However, a report by The Indian Express has revealed that the murder of BJP councillor Hiren Patel may well have been a case of contract killing.
According to the report, the police have arrested four individuals in connection with Patel's murder - Ajay Himmat Kalal from Jhalod, Sajjansinh Chauhan and Mohammed Samir Mujawar from Ujjain, and Irfan Siraj Pada from Godhra.
Pada had earlier been named a convict in the infamous 2002 Godhra train burning case, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims and karsevaks returning from Ayodhya were burnt dead in a fire inside the Sabarmati Express train near the Godhra railway station in Gujarat.
It is to be noted that the Godhra train burning remains a volatile topic in fractious debates over India's inter-communal conflicts, especially since the incident is widely perceived to have been a trigger for the Gujarat riots that followed.
Subsequent reports have revealed some details regarding the investigation. Among the arrested individuals, it was Ajay Kalal who had contacted the other three, the police said, for planning out Hiren Patel's murder.
Kalal, Pada, and Chauhan had all met each other while in prison.
There's a possibility that the police were under pressure to solve the case as soon as possible since Hiren Patel was a local BJP leader of high stature and the matter of his death had reached the state government-level, involving several top brass of the administration in the process.
Cops managed to track CCTV footage from the day of the incident, finding out in the process that one of the two vehicles that sped past the site of the alleged killing had actually been noticed taking rounds of the spot earlier and had crossed by three times just before the incident.
Further investigation is on to dig deeper into who had commissioned the contract killing. The police are also interrogating the accused to confirm if the killing was a case of political rivalry or personal enmity.