“Gele te divas, rahilya tya aathwani” – “Gone are those days, what remain are memories”
Sunil Jadhav (21) and his parents, Sanjay Jadhav (42) & mother Jayshree Jadhav (38) were murdered in cold-blood.
This was the quotation that was on the wall facing the courtyard of the unfortunate Jadhav family, in Javkhede village, Pathardi tehsil in the district of Ahmednagar. Like many Buddhist-Dalit families, the Jadhav family too had struggled to build their lives as they moved from their mud-baked hutments to pucca houses. The earlier generations, tilled the land as landless labourers, or then had a little land, like the six acres that the four Jadhav brothers possessed.
After having heard of another terrible instance of a brutal casteist murder, the Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Kruti Samiti (DAVKS – Action Committee Against Dalit Atrocities) constituted a broad based fact-finding committee that visited the village on the 27th of October. It included veteran journalist Jatin Desai, Com Subodh More, Uttam Jagirdar, Sudhakar Kashyap (IBN-Lokmat), Ranganath Pathare (Ahmednagar), Keshav Waghmare (Pune), Anjan Veludkar, Vinod Shinde and this writer.
It was on the 20th of October, just prior to Diwali that Sunil Jadhav (21) and his parents, Sanjay Jadhav (42) & mother Jayshree Jadhav (38) were murdered in cold-blood. Even as they slept in their little house built in their 1.25 acre Bajra field, the killers numbering between 10-15; attacked them after 11.00pm.
The killers first bludgeoned the three to death with heavy weapons, with injury marks on the head, after which they strangulated each of the three to death. Then they used a heavy electric cutter used to cut trees, to further chop the bodies into pieces that they disposed in a deep well, as well as the bore-well about 50 meters away.
Whilst the bodies of the father & the mother were cut into 3 & 2 pieces respectively, they reserved the worst for Sunil, whose body was chopped into more than 40 pieces. As planned, they disposed of these bodies in the well & the bore-well close by. In the case of Sunil, they went to the extent of chopping his head, hands, legs into smaller pieces to try & force them down the bore-well. The worst treatment was certainly reserved for the young lad, who had just graduated from a Dairy College in Mumbai and had aspirations of seeking employment in the lucrative dairy sector.
It was on the next day, the 21st of October, that a lady by the name of Ritabai Wagh (name changed) called the family around 9.00am on Suresh Jadhav’s phone, Sunil’s paternal uncle that “there was nobody at their home in the field and that there was blood on the soil just outside the house”. The family immediately went looking for the three family members and scoured every health-centre, clinic & dispensary in the nearby areas, going all the way to Ahmednagar city 62 kms away, but to no avail. By 2.00pm they contacted the police, who immediately commenced their search in the fields and found the body parts in the well & the bore-well.
Due to the fact that there were a 2-3 activists who too were present when the police arrived, they were in a position to record a lot of the evidence on their mobiles in terms of photographs of the deceased mutilated bodies. They immediately began to send the messages all across to the media, as well social activists across the state. Soon protests erupted across more than 10 cities & towns across Maharashtra, with the Marathi media covering the horrendous murders, the issue now having assumed political proportions.
The Javkhedi village has a population of approximately 300 houses, of which about 30 belong to the Buddhist-Dalit community, whilst the rest belong to the dominant Marathas, Vanjara-OBC’s, as well as other Dalits such as the Mangs, Matangs & Chamars. The population includes people from across all religions. The Marathas dominate the socio-political & economic landscape, with the key political leaders across political parties ranging from the BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP & the Congress all dominated by them and borne out with their utter arrogant behavior, as they are a law unto to themselves.
The murder was certainly well planned & was in motion far in advance & was thus not committed in a fit of rage. Prior to the murderous attack on the 20th of October, even the dogs in the field had been killed, so as to ensure that there was no warning or hindrance whatsoever.
Suresh Jadhav also informed us that “a person had come home to inquire about Sunil two days prior to the killing”. The fact that the police had not yet made any arrests even though the Jadhav family had named the Wagh family as the prime accused was also he said “due to political pressure being exerted on the police by certain powerful political leaders”. Suresh Jadhav also said that Sunil’s mobile was “missing” whilst a “photograph of Sunil & a girl had been recovered from his bag”, which they had handed over to the police and they did not have a copy of that crucial bit of evidence anymore. He also said that the police had “not yet found the weapons either” and there were no witnesses to the crime either. He also appealed for legal help with dedicated lawyers who would fight for justice for his family.
The reasons for the brutal murder of the Jadhav family also were discussed with the family. All possibilities of land related dispute either intra-family or with the dominant castes were ruled out after much investigation.
The other possibility that has clearly emerged is that of a “Honour Killing” where a Dalit youth who crosses the red-line of courting a girl from the higher castes deserves to be put to death for challenging the caste systems & hierarchies.
Sunil Jadhav’s name has been lined to Ritabai Wagh (38), the lady who called his family on the crucial morning the next day after the murders. On further investigation, this lead somehow did not add up, even though the local reporters & activists all discussed this as the core reason.
On further investigation as we went across Sunil’s Facebook posts, we came across the photograph of a girl, very much his age, with whom he clearly shared a degree of mutual intimacy. She too comes from the upper-caste Maratha Wagh family (name not to be revealed) and a FB photo of the girl in a Bajra field was posted as his very ‘profile’ on the 17th of September 2013. This photograph was also commented on by his friends. It’s clear from the further FB posts that their relation underwent a degree of tension all the way till October 2014. This can be easily ascertained by a detailed investigation of their FB posts & chat records, as well as their mobile records & exchanges over Watsapp.
This clearly seems as the most likely probability. Earlier too in 2012, in the village of Sonai, three Mehtar (SC) youth had been bludgeoned & chopped to death for one of the youth having fallen in love with a Maratha girl.
In fact according to Additional SP Sunita Thakre, who herself had investigated the Sonai village attacks she said that “the modus operandi of both the Pathardi & Sonai attacks was the same, the reasons being honour killing”.
The police have been carrying on its investigation and have taken 22 people into custody, even taking recourse to third degree techniques of interrogation but with no arrests made so far. There is a strong police presence at the key crime spots, all across the village, with a tent right outside the Jadhav family for their ‘security’, which seems more like intimidation.
In terms of political pressure, it was clear that the Maratha lobby was operating across parties to ensure that the investigation was scuttled and that the true reason for the brutal killings lie buried in the bore-well in the fields.
The recently elected BJP MLA Monica Rajale, was earlier in the NCP, before her husband ensured that she was given the BJP ticket, himself having fought the recently held Lok Sabha elections on the NCP ticket.
The sitting MP Dilip Gandhi, is also from the BJP. The Rajale family is also very closely related to the powerful Wagh family. Also Ritabai Wagh is the sister to Anil Karale, a powerful figure in the Shiv Sena.
As for the Dalit community, they stand both enraged, as well as worried due to the rising tide of violence, hatred & caste discrimination – all in the land of Mahatma Phule & Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Many progressive writers & cultural figures across the state are bewildered at the steady decline of progressive values, even as the right wing forces are on the rise.
Ranganath Pathare, a known writer said that he was “ashamed at the fact that Dalits were being subjected to these levels of brutalities, discrimination, violence & death”. Pathare was clear that a progressive social movement will once again have to emerge if the casteist & communal forces were to be countered & kept at bay”.
Noted veteran writer Urmila Pawar, reminded the younger generation that “we saluted the progressive land of Ahmednagar for having played a key role in the days when Savitri Bai Phule was training to be a teacher”. Today she said, “We stand appalled at the levels of cultural degeneration of the masses”.
Comrade Subodh More of the “Vidhrohi Sanskrutik Chadwad” and a key figure in the literary landscape of Maharashtra spoke “of the days when the Communist movement dominated the political landscape in Ahmednagar, but today the party was in a state of sheer disarray to say the least”.
Even as we spoke to the senior crime branch officials that are now all across the village, they too were stunned with the extreme violent & gruesome nature of the murders. Earlier too there was a similar case in Sonai village (2013), where three Mehtar (Scavenger community) youth were murdered & their bodies disposed in similar fashion. The murders in Pathardi they said followed the same modus operandi, but with a greater degree of sophistication & planning.
In terms of the anti-Dalit violence across Maharashtra, the main perpetrators are the dominant Marathas, as well as the OBC’s. Whilst 90% of the victims belong to the Buddhist-Dalit community, but Mangs, Matangs, Mehtars (Scheduled Castes) & Pardhis (NT-Notified Tribes) are the victims of the daily cycle of caste brutality, both in terms of the physical & structural violence, as well as the castigation & verbal abuse to which they are exposed. The Marathas are the main perpetrators across Western & North Maharashtra, as well as Marathwada, with the OBC’s taking recourse to brute force in Vidharbha.
According to Keshav Waghmare, who had dedicated his life to fight for the rights of the Dalit community, the cases of caste violence are appalling with 111 registered under the Dalit Atrocities Act in 2013 and 74 cases till October 2014. He described instances whereby Dalit Sarpanches, duly elected by law, are not allowed to function, insulted if they attend the Panchayat and not even allowed to sit on a chair along with the other upper-castes.
The young Samir Pathan (25), who lives 50 kms away from Javkhede village, was present on the very next day after he got the news of another Dalit killing. He has been working night & day to collect the facts, even as he conveys the information to other human rights activists, organizations & journalists across the state. Samir has been an activist ever since the age of eleven, when his father was brutalized, stripped naked & beaten by the dominant Maratha caste. Samir’s father who worked in the Talati’s office, handling land related records, was beaten up & insulted for having refused to cooperate with certain powerful people for fudging certain official papers. This incident left a scar on the young Samir’s life, after which he has dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of the oppressed & the marginalized sections of Indian society. During the night Samir does not stay in the Javkhede village, fearing for his life.
Just two days later, on the 22nd of October, two youth of the Pardhi (ST) community were stoned to death by a village mob in Parner village once again in Ahmednagar district. Instances of the Buddhist-Dalit Nikhalje family attacked by NCP goons for celebrating the jayanti of Dr. Ambedkar, have also been reported from Bhimnagar village. Again 8 Matang (SC) youth were attacked by BJP goons. None of the perpetrators have been apprehended by the police.
By Feroze Mithiborwala, Senior Correspondent, Medhaj News
30th October 2014
(The article is based on the fact-finding, but the views of the author are his alone)