Fact Finding Report: Activist Couple nearly killed by Caste Forces | Castevirus010MH32013

30Jan13
Pic 01 Vaibhav Ghatge talking to TV channel

Pic 01 Vaibhav Ghatge talking to TV channel

Assaulted, near fatally injured, molested, pushed off a cliff and left for dead, reports Divya Sarathy.

Exclusive Report

*

 

These were definitely not the thoughts that were running through  Vaibhav’s and Mohini’s minds before they set out on the evening of  January 22, 2013 to their village temple. But these are the words that  describe what happened to them on that fateful evening, just two days  after their much anticipated wedding.

 

The Incident

They were followed by three men on motorcycles as they traveled to  the temple situated along the cliffs near Kulakjai Village (Maan Taluka,  Satara District, Maharashtra) around 5.30pm. The temple is situated  outside the village.  The area is generally deserted. As they finished  visiting the temple the three men attacked the newly wedded couple  without warning or provocation. Vaibhav and Mohini were taken to edge of  the cliffs. There they were beaten repeatedly and assaulted with  stones. Mohini was forced by the men to watch as they continued to  brutalize Vaibhav. While their phones were taken away, Mohini was forced  to hand over all the gold she was wearing. The assaulters then tried to  pull her sari off.  She was told that if she did not “cooperate” with  them she would have to watch Vaibhav being done to death, and that she  would be responsible for that happening. In trying to resist them, she  held on to one end of the sari. Vaibhav threw a stone at the one doing  this. Following this the man let go of the sari because of which Mohini  fell off the cliff from a height of 300 feet and lost consciousness. Thinking  her to be dead, they turned their focus completely onto Vaibhav and  kept hitting his head with rocks. When it seemed to them that he was  passing out due to all the injuries, including a serious head injury (later  identified as a cracked skull), the three men threw him off the cliff.  Believing the couple to be dead, they left the place.

 

Mohini regained consciousness after about an hour and began climbing  up the cliffs. She did this in spite of the serious injuries she had  suffered all over her body, in addition to the various internal  injuries. Vaibhav, who was slipping in and out of consciousness at that  time, was able to call out her a couple of times before passing out  completely. This allowed Mohini to find him, who then pulled Vaibhav up  to a place of relative safety amongst the cliffs. Upon reaching the top,  Mohini was able to make contact with some people living near the  temple, with whose help she called her maternal home. They then alerted  Vaibhav’s family, who put together a search party to find and rescue  him. Vaibhav was found and rescued a couple of hours later and both of  them were rushed to the hospital. Vaibhav was admitted to the ICU due  the grievous nature of his injuries.

 

Their condition stabilized only two days after the incident. Vaibhav  is at present out of the ICU. Mohini has suffered many internal injuries  and is unable to eat solid food to date. An FIR was lodged with the  Dahiwada Police Station on January 24, 2013. Statements from Mohini and  Vaibhav have been recorded by the police. The police have registered a  case of robbery with grievous injury. The couple has identified the  perpetrators and one arrest has been made as of January 26, 2013.

 

The Background

While prima facie this incident is being considered as a case of  robbery, the magnitude of brutality meted out to Mohini and Vaibhav  should force one to examine the larger context of the case in detail.  Motive of robbery alone instigating such violence is questionable.  Mohini has stated to the police that the men who assaulted them were  speaking and laughing to each other before throwing Vaibhav off the  cliff. One of them reportedly said, Aata yanchya gharcha dusra gela! (There! One more person of the family is now dead!)” This statement by itself should be seen as one that weakens this case  as one of mere robbery. A brief look into the family history will  provide further clarity.

 

Vaibhav’s paternal uncle, Shri Madhukar Ghadage, was murdered in  April 2007 over a land dispute with a family belonging to the dominant  Mali caste (Kulakjai Village is home to 30 Dalit families, while the  rest are Malis). This murder definitely had caste based overtones and  the case was registered under the Prevention SC/ST Atrocities Act.  Eleven persons were arrested. The prime accused in the murder case, Mr.  Bhivaji Kapse, is the maternal cousin of the sitting MLA of Maan, Mr.  Jaikumar Gore. Mr. Gore exercises significant clout and influence over  government officials in the area. He is known to be close to  Mr  Prithviraj Chavan, presently the sitting Chief Minister of Maharashtra.  There were many obstructions to the process of investigation in this  case which can only be traced back to pressure from higher authorities.  Consequently, all the accused were let out on bail by the Sessions  Court. The case is presently pending at the High Court with the hearing  date yet to be set. Meanwhile all the accused remain to out on bail.

 

Last year, around October, the farming equipment and fields of the  Ghadage family at Kulakjai were sabotaged. This led to the family  incurring financial losses. The perpetrators of the farm incident could  not be positively identified, though the family has strong suspicions  that the family of the prime accused in the murder case is involved.

 

The prime accused in the Mohini-Vaibhav assault case, Navnath Kapase,  is also an accused in the murder of Shri Madhukar Ghadage. He is the  son of Bhivaji Kapase (who is the the prime accused in the murder case) and nephew of the MLA, Mr. Jaikumar Gore.

 

With this background thus established, the alleged motive of robbery  in the latest incident of violence on Vaibhav and Mohini comes under  serious doubt. The impunity with which Navnath Kapase has dared to  commit such a crime while out on bail for murder, should give one  further food for thought.

 

 

Implications

 

The Ghadage family is in constant fear of further harm befalling  them. They are worried about the safety and security of all family  members. The social and economic progress of the family has been  thwarted at every step. Members of the family are being systematically  targeted one after another, at regular intervals. Yesterday it was Shri  Madhukar Ghadage and today it is Vaibhav. Tomorrow it could be anyone  else in the family. The perpetrators need to get the message that they  cannot expect to go scot free for the crimes they commit just because of  their upper caste affiliations and the resultant connections in high  political places.

 

Action Required

  1. The case has presently been registered under very weak sections in  comparison to the nature of crime i.e. sections 394 (robbery) and  Section 34 (common intent). Also the caste overtones in the case need to  be examined. This incident cannot be considered an event in isolation,  but one in a series of actions aimed at systematically disrupting the  lives and livelihood of the various members of the Ghadage family in  Kulakjai Village.
  2. That this case be brought under the purview of the Prevention of Atrocities Against SC/ST Act.
  3. That the case be registered as one of attempted murder, as the details clearly imply.
  4. It should be ensured that the Investigation Officer and  investigation process in the matter of the Mohini-Vaibhav assault is not  influenced by politicians.
  5. That the Shri Madhukar Ghadage Murder case pending with the High Court is fast tracked and hearing dates set immediately.
  6. That the bail of all accused in the murder case be cancelled with  immediate effect as they are a constant threat to the family, as they  have already demonstrated.
  7. That the safety and security of the Ghadage family is ensured at Kulakjai village.

 

Please contact the following people if you can be of proactive assistance in ensuring justice for this family at the earliest.

 

Tushar Ghadge – +91 90962 49712 / +91 75886 96559

Mayank Sinha – +91 80802 67769

 

A detailed report  with all facts and details of the case (including latest updates) is  available on request with the aforementioned people.

 

 

PS – This issue is slowly getting regional and  national media coverage. A piece has appeared in The Hindu dated January  29, 2013 (http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/five-years-after-kin-murder-dalit-family-attacked-again-for-pursuing-justice/article4354611.ece).  IBN Lokmat had featured this on their primetime show on January 28,  2013 at 9 pm with a repeat telecast on 12 am.

 

PPS – The above piece is based on inputs from Tushar Ghadage, Mausumi Chetia and others as of 28/01/2013. It is accurate to the best of my knowledge. Discrepancies, if any, are solely my responsibility.



4 Responses to “Fact Finding Report: Activist Couple nearly killed by Caste Forces | Castevirus010MH32013”

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