MUMBAI: A grim-faced old man and woman remain dry-eyed through the interview. When all the questions are answered, Jagganath (79) and Sakhrabai Jadhav, in her 60s, break down as they recall the hacked body parts of their son Sanjay Jadhav, his wife Jayashree and their teenage grandson Sunil, lying in a well in their village, Javkhede in Ahmednagar. The murder of this Dalit family in October this year is being likened to the gruesome Khairlanji killings. Sunil, 19, was studying dairy science in Mumbai.
While there have been worldwide protests by Dalit groups over police inaction in the triple murder, the Jadhav family has accused the police of botching the case, providing protection to the perpetrators and victimizing members of the family instead.

While Sanjay Jadhav’s nephews, Prashant and Ashok, have been arrested in the case, the family alleges the boys were illegally detained and tortured by police for several days before the arrest.

Prashant Jadhav’s wife Sheetal, who sits beside Sakhrabai and Jagganath, says her husband had actually asked her not to say anything against police for fear of consequences while in custody. Sheetal says her husband was at home the night of the triple murder and could in no way have been involved.

Sheetal alleges she was asked “filthy” questions by police about whether she was having an affair with any members of the family. The family also claims some of its members were offered a bribe to confess to the crime.

Ravindra Jadhav, one of Sanjay’s brothers, has written to Bombay High Court saying he was summoned to Ahmednagar police station on November 19 and informed the police had cracked the case. He has stated that the police then turned on him and said he was the culprit. He was asked to confess to the crime along with one other family member, the letter says, so that the rest of the family would not be arrested, He then told the police they were implicating him falsely and that he would ask for a CBI inquiry, the letter states.

Jagganath and Sakhrabaibai have accused a Maratha family in the neighbourhood of the murder. They say it is a case of honour killing, as their grandson Sunil was on a bike with the daughter of an upper-caste neighbour they believe to be behind the murder. They say villagers had taunted this neighbour over his daughter’s friendship with Sunil, a Dalit. The Jadhav family believes Sunil’s friendship with the girl led to his death.

Natha Allat, a relative of the Jadhavs, alleges the police hid vital evidence such as Sunil’s mobile phone, as well as photographs of the girl and her mother found in Sunil’s bag.

The Jadhavs say police are victimizing them while providing special protection to the neighbour’s family.

Police strongly refute their charges. “What interest do we have in doing wrong? We have to answer to the court and society over the incident. When this case is being scrutinized so closely by the media, what could be the reason for us arresting the wrong person? If the family has any problem with us, they can give it to us in writing,” says Lakhmi Gautam, superintendent of police, Ahmednagar.

Dalit activist Milind Bhawar says the sudden arrests of Ashok and Prashant were to prevent a CBI probe into the matter.