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Kherlanji Verdict –What Next?

By Ravikiran Shinde

16 July, 2010

The Nagpur High Court bench’s verdict on Kherlanji of diluting the 6 culprits’ of death sentences given by Bhandara session court and refusal to accept it as caste based killings by removing the SC/ST Atrocity (PoA) act provisions proves one thing - There is no support for Dalits in any form. They incur Social Apathy, Police Apathy, Government Apathy, Media Apathy and now the Judicial Apathy.

None of the above social segments were either willing or able to help the Kherlanji victims get due and proper justice. Dalits across the state had started one of the most apolitical agitation post Kharilanji in late 2006. The fact that this was a caste killing based on the age-old caste abuse by the villagers on the Bhootmange’s – given the latter’s attempt to gain self esteem in a typical wicked minded village mentality - was crystal clear. The gruesome act of eliminating the entire family on 29th Sep 2006 by first raping the females in full public view and then even raping their dead corpse as pointed out in independent inquiries and fact finding teams, lead to only one conclusion - this was none other than caste based killings and formed the rarest of the rare case deserving capital punishment.

But the honorable High Court has turned a blind eye to the implicit details and delivered its judgment purely based on the weak evidence furnished before it by the prosecution. It can be argued that the court is not to be blamed here for this awful judgment for it is merely supposed to go by books and prosecution (read CBI and the State government) is guilty of purposefully weakening the case.

But what about media - Read the reports immediately after the massacre (Dainik Lokmat newspaper especially). It was termed as killing resulting out of illicit relation between Surekha (the mother) and her cousin (Siddharth Gajbhiye). Here too the media simply went by the oppressors version and literally justified the killing. Now, can we charge the media of maligning the image of the deceased mother? Is the media ready to apologize? When a court delivers not so harsh sentence to Haryana former DGP SPS Rathore in the Ruchica molestation case, the entire media pounces on the judgment and it formed the headlines for days. But no media wants to take cognizance of this lighter sentence for Bhootmange killers. If Bhootmangses were Joshis or Abhyankar or even Guptas, they probably would have probably taken due cognizance of it, apparently.
It is better not to talk about Police in general and the government in particular. R. R Patil headed ministry is definitely short of ideas to deal with this situation and merely went by the local police versions who were trying to cover up the story and the post mortem. Where was the human angle, or soft touch given the bhootmange, at least for the sake of votes. Again, no willingness or Ability to go an extra mile. It will be futile to expect anything from the Congress- NCP government that is still shielding the killer cop Manohar Kadam who mercilessly and indiscriminately shot 11 dalit youths in Ghatkopar in July 1997. The Gundewar commission set up by the state, concluded that the Tanker theory (that the mob was on its way to torch the LPG tanker) was absurd and the police firing was uncalled for. Manohar Kadam remains scot free. In both the cases the culprits were from Powerful Maratha, OBC castes who forms the base of Congress and NCP in the state and they could not take any action against them by siding with
the dalits.

What a shame! Such was the wreath of the Dalits against the then Sena-BJP post Ghatkopar in 1997 that they single handedly backed Sharad Pawar and gave him 36 out of 48 MPs from the state to make him leader of the opposition in 1998. Dalits now realize how awfully wrong they were to side with Congress and NCP on the Ramabai Nagar killings. Now, there will be a challenge to this Kherlanji verdict in the Apex court and few more years will be wasted. Finally, there will be no end to the lone survivor Bhiyyalal bhootmange’s agony. The public memory will fade away gradually and the politicians will thrive on it. The fact that state government who fights cases such as Mumbai Blast and 26/11 on its own had to hand over the Kheralanji case to CBI is perplexing. Why noted lawyer Adv. Ujjwal Nikam with 100% track record failed to successfully figfht for it till end tend or perhaps he himself escaped Systematically.

What is very ironic is the fact that the intellects from OBC community whose battle Dalits fight on the street whether it is regarding OBC reservations or Caste census, are conspicuous by their silence on this entire Kherlanji episode.

This is a grave tragedy. What option does this leave the oppressed community with in a civil society?

This is a vital question is for all of us.