A Dalit youth was brutally assaulted and killed in the temple town of Shirdi in Maharashtra allegedly over his mobile ringtone of a song on Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. Four assailants have been arrested while four others are absconding.
Sagar Shejwal, a nursing student , had come home to Shirdi to attend a wedding. On May 16 around 1.30 p.m., he went to a local beer shop with two of his cousins.
According to Vivek Patil, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sagar was assaulted by eight youths over his ringtone. Mr Patil said: “Eight youths were sitting at a table at the shop. When Sagar’s mobile rang with the Ambedkar song as its ringtone, the youths told him to switch it off. In a police statement, the cousin has described the song as Tumhi kara re kitihi halla / Mazbut Bhimacha quilla [Shout all you want / Bhim’s fortress is strong].
An altercation ensued and the assailants hit Sagar with a beer bottle and started kicking and punching him. Then they dragged him out, put him on a motorbike and took him away to a nearby forest. They crushed him under the bike. Sagar’s body was found around 6.30 p.m. in a naked state near Rui village. The cause of death was multiple fractures. The autopsy says Sagar sustained around 25 injuries. He died between 2 and 4 p.m.”
The perpetrators, a group of local youths from the dominant Maratha and OBC communities, ran their bike repeatedly over Sagar’s body mutilating it .
“I can understand that they hit him. Quarrels can happen anytime, but look at the brutality of the act. Why would they do this on such a trivial matter?” Sagar’s father Subhash Shejwal asked, unable to comprehend the horror of the assault.
The initial assault was captured on the CCTV cameras at the beer shop. The 21-minute footage, in which the faces of the assailants are clearly seen, provides strong electronic evidence to the police.
The shop itself is within a stone’s throw from the Shirdi police station, raising serious questions about police inaction. “I called the police at 1.45 p.m. when the youths were beating up Sagar, but for a long time they did not come,” said Sandeep Ghorpade, manager of the beer shop. Sagar’s cousins, who managed to escape, also alerted the police, but in vain.
The family alleged that the officers on duty demanded an air-conditioned vehicle to look for Sagar. The police said a departmental inquiry would be initiated against Inspector Pramod Wagh and constable Sharad Kadam.
“Only our relatives were looking for Sagar. No police vehicle was in sight. The body was also discovered by family members,” said complainant and Sagar’s cousin Satish Gaikwad.
The police arrested Vishal Kote, Somnath and Rupesh Wadekar, who are historysheeters and Sunil Jadhav.
They have been booked under the Sections 302 (murder), 395 (punishment for dacoity), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 109 (punishment of abetment) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 (2) (v) and 3 (1) (x) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.