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Khairlanji: Conspiracy Of Silence

06 December, 2006

In the report prepared by a government agency[1] , Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) that provides administrative training and also sensitizes the administration on atrocity-related issues, has severely indicted senior police officials and doctors for their attempt to cover up the rape of Surekha and Priyanka Bhotmange , two of the four victims and recommended stringent action against them, including making them co-accused in the state, booking them under the Prevention of Atrocities Act and treating them on par with terrorist. Four officials have been so far suspended in the matter.

The report also points out at the lapses in the conduct of the following key officials,

1. Pankaj Gupta - Special Inspector General of Police, Nagpur

He accepted a bribe from interested elements for making a statement that the incident did not involve rape.

2. Dr.Shende - Who did the post-mortem

He did not check the possibility of a sexual attack on women victims though their bodies were found naked and did not perform the necessary tests. Blood samples were not taken in spite of a written requisition from police.

3. Madhukar Kukade - local MLA

He was present during the postmortem of Priyanka Bhotmange's body. (by mentioning this the report hints at pressure from higher ups to fabricate post-mortem's findings).

4. Dr.P.S. Pasricha - Director General of Police

He did not visit Khairlanji even after Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil had been there. The report says this reflects insensitivity at the top levels of the police department towards communal atrocities and sends totally wrong signals to the police machinery in the state.

The report has been prepared after interviewing 28 persons and examining the documents. The report says the medical authorities committed 'extremely serious neglect, perhaps of deliberate nature, during post-mortem of Priyanka Bhotmange's family. The report also states that 'the district authorities such as district magistrate, superintendent of police, and civil surgeon remained aloof and indifferent throughout the sequence of events, hence allowing the crime and subsequent manipulation of evidence '.

Who conducted the probe?

The investigation was conducted by Ratnakar Gaikwad - Director- General of YASHADA and nodal officer, SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) act 1989. The report was prepared by Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute, Department of Social Justice (GOM) and Centre for Equity and Social Justice (CESJ) all of which are part of government .

What The Report Recommends ?

1. Negligent officers, instead of being transferred/ suspended should be made co-accused. Inquiry under Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 should be initiated against them. They should be denied service benefits like pension and gratuity.

2. Atrocities on Dalits be viewed on par with terrorism and the accused be dealt sternly under provisions of a stringent act to control organized crime.

3. The government should conduct a survey of all the villages to find out whether untouchability is prevalent anywhere.

4. In case of reports against discrimination or atrocities in a village local level functionaries such as talathi, anganwadi worker, gramsevak, police patil etc. be suspended immediately.

5. A section on atrocities be included in the school curriculum and teachers be given special training on equity and social justice.

[1] Joshi Parikshit, 'Conspiracy of Silence' MumbaiMirror, December 4, 2006. pg. 1 and 4.

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