“Before letting my son go, the subinspector told him that if he didn’t mend his ways, blood would be spilled like in the movie Sairat.”
Boy killed for falling in love with girl from upper caste
A 16-year-old student, who had been apparently seeing a girl from a different caste, was beaten to death in Navi Mumbai’s Seawoods locality on Tuesday night, a shocking case that bears all the hallmarks of an honour killing. Victim Swapnil Sonawane’s parents, Asha and Shahaji, were also assaulted in the attack, which lasted for nearly 30 minutes. Seven people, including the girl’s parents and brother, were arrested on Wednesday for abduction and murder, which could have been prevented had the Nerul police not ignored the threats made to Swapnil.

A day before the fatal beating, the baby-faced teen was allegedly held at knifepoint by the girl’s relatives and later dragged to the police station. There, a sub-inspector apparently told him that if he didn’t quit pursuing the girl, he would face the same fate as the lead male character in the Marathi film Sairat, the tragic story of a couple killed for family honour.

A few hours before the attack on Tuesday night, Swapnil and his parents visited the police station and sought protection, but a cop asked them to “watch out” for what happened next, alleged Shahaji, an SBI employee.

Cops suspended

Late on Wednesday night, Navi Mumbai police commissioner suspended assistant inspector Yogesh Mane and sub-inspector Sonali Rajguru over their failure to prevent the killing.

The girl’s parents Rajendra and Malati Naik, her 25-year-old brother Sagar and four others have been booked on charges of murder, kidnapping, causing hurt, intent to provoke breach of the peace, criminal intimidation and common intention. A case has also been registered under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

According to the post-mortem report, Swapnil died because of repeated blows to the head.

The Sonawanes, who live in SBI Colony in Nerul, are Buddhists, while the girl belongs to the Agri community, considered to be socially superior.

The Sonawanes claim Swapnil had never made any inappropriate advances towards the girl; the two teens became friends in school and later started dating each other. But the girl’s family alleges Swapnil had been pressuring her for a relationship.

The girl’s brother, Sagar, was the first to raise objections to the teen’s growing friendship. The matter came to a head on Monday night when Sagar turned up at SBI Colony and called Swapnil downstairs with his mobile phone and other devices, according to Shahaji.

“My son went downstairs at around 8.30 pm. Some men grabbed him and bundled him into an auto. One man pulled out a knife, while others started hitting my son,” Shahaji said. “Swapnil was taken to the Nerul police station and my wife was later called there. She was then told that Swapnil had molested the girl.”

The relative’ only evidence: a picture of her on his phone. Instead of criticising the relatives for using force, the sub-inspector pulled up Swapnil, who was forced to apologise and submit in writing that he would not try to contact the girl or even look at her.

Shahaji claim the girl had herself shared pictures with Swapnil. “At the police station, the group of men snatched my son’s phone and destroyed the SIM and memory cards, and a pen drive,” Shahaji said.

Policeman’s Sairat warning

“Before letting my son go, the subinspector told him that if he didn’t mend his ways, blood would be spilled like in the movie Sairat.”

The Sonawanes claim Swapnil and the girl had mutual feelings for each other. “Later on Monday night, my son told me everything. He showed messages sent by the girl. In one message, the girl said she would slit her wrists if she was not allowed to be with him,” Shahaji said. “He also showed me a crystal globe that she had gifted him on his birthday on June 6 and pictures she had shared.”

Swapnil, a commerce student, was due to join DY Patil College on Tuesday, but he was advised to skip the first day because of Monday’s episode. “I feared for my son’s life and didn’t want him to go out alone. We later decided to register a complaint against the girl’s relatives, but cops refused to hear our side of the story,” Shahaji said.

“I was waiting to meet a senior officer when sub-inspector Mane enquired what had happened. We described the entire incident and waited for nearly an hour, but no one registered our complaint. We were then asked to go home and watch out for what was about to happen.”

The assault

Moments later, Shahaji received a panic call from his 13-year-old daughter who said some people were forcefully knocking on the door and creating a ruckus. “We rushed back, and saw five to seven people standing downstairs. Sagar was also there. He told me we will have to visit their house and apologise. I told him that Swapnil had already submitted a written apology in the police station, but he refused to listen,” Shahaji said.

The Sonawanes wanted the nightmare to end so they relented and went to the girl’s residence in Seawoods. “We apologised to the girl’s parents, but they asked us to touch her feet. Swapnil was slapped repeatedly and ordered to call the girl his sister,” Shahaji alleged.

But the situation soon worsened as a group of men started assaulting the Sonawanes. “We ran fearing for our life. They chased us to a nearby chowk screaming ‘chor, chor’. Onlookers thought we were thieves and didn’t intervene,” the distraught father alleged.

“I tried to protect my son, but they kept hitting him. After 20 minutes, he became unconscious. They left us on the street and I managed to hail an auto to DY Patil Hospital,” Shahaji said.

Swapnil died before the treatment could begin. His mother is still recovering from the assault at the hospital.