A month after a professor of Khopoli’s KMC college was allegedly assaulted by a mob, there has been no breakthrough in the investigation of the case.
The college, which is affiliated to Mumbai University, could not obtain any CCTV footage of the alleged attack on professor Sunil Waghmare on March 17 due to an unexpected power cut.
The college principal Dr Narendra Pawar told an independent fact-finding team from Mumbai that the CCTVs could not capture the entire incident due to “sudden loss of electricity supply, and failure of the generator.” “The absence of the CCTV footage exactly on the day of the attack is suspicious at the very least,” the fact-finding team noted.
Waghmare was beaten and arrested on March 17 after he forwarded a WhatsApp message asking why Shivaji’s birthday was celebrated twice a year. On March 15, he forwarded the text message that listed various dates on which Shivaji’s birthday is celebrated. He received immense flak for the message from the college. On the following day, he was beaten and arrested under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for outraging religious beliefs. He has also been suspended for six months from his post of Head of Department of Commerce.
The fact-finding team relied on mobile phone recordings of the incident posted by a local news channel and interviews with the college staff members. According to the report submitted by the team, Waghmare was heckled by a mob of nearly 300 people identifying themselves as ‘ShivPremis’ (admirers of Shivaji). “Someone in the crowd asks Waghmare, ‘How can you make a comment like this?’ We celebrate Shivaji Maharaj through so many Jayantis. How can you insult him?” the report observes.
Despite repetitive pleas and apologies, he was thrashed by the mob, the team noted. “At this point, more young men come into the room. One of them first starts slapping Waghmare. Unable to walk, he falls, and is picked up again by the police. Amidst loud chants of ‘Jai Shivaji, Jai Bhavani’ by a crowd of hundreds of people, he is taken into the police van,” the report stated.
After the incident, Waghmare returned with his family to his native place in Nanded.
The investigative team has raised questions on the role of the principal for failing to take action against the mob. Incidentally, Pawar had left the college hours before the alleged attack to attend an educational function in Mumbai and a meeting at Mantralaya. The team also found that Waghmare and Pawar did not share a cordial professional relationship.
Meanwhile, the suspended professor has complained to the police of caste-related harassment at the college, but the police are yet to file a FIR. The college management is in the process of setting up a committee to review his suspension. “The management suspended him after pressure from the mob. The committee’s report will decide if his suspension would continue or be revoked,” Pawar said