Monday, May 12, 2014

Dastardly honour killing in Kharda, Maharashtra: CPI (M) delegation calls for State-wide protests

Ajit Nawale

On April 28, 2014 there occurred a dastardly act of honour killing of a 17 year old Dalit youth called Nitin Aage in Kharda village of Ahmednagar district, bordering the Marathwada region. The sheer cruelty with which the act was perpetrated shocked Maharashtra and rekindled the tragic memories of the Khairlanji and Sonai Dalit massacres a few years ago.

The news was flashed in the media on May 1, which is both the International May Day of the working class and also Maharashtra Day – the day on which the state was formed in 1960. On the same day, the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee and Ahmednagar district committee issued a joint press release condemning this honour killing and calling for statewide protest demonstrations demanding the immediate arrest of, and stringent action against all the upper caste perpetrators of this heinous crime and steps for the protection and rehabilitation of the poor Aage family.

On May 4, a CPI(M) state delegation led by state secretary and central committee member Dr Ashok Dhawale and comprising state committee members Shailendra Kamble, Prakash Choudhari and Dr Ajit Nawale, district committee members Dr Mahebub Sayyad, Kiran Moghe and Subhash Thorat, and Party activists Dr Sanjay Dabhade and Suresh Bhor visited Kharda village to console the Aage family and to bring pressure on the authorities to ensure that justice was done. They were accompanied by activists of democratic organisations. 

CPI(M) delegation led by state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale consoling the Aage Dalit family in Kharda.

Kharda is a village with a total population of around 15,000. There are around 250 Dalit families, which means a population of around 1,000. The village and the entire surrounding area has dryland agriculture and is chronically drought-prone.

The Aage family originally hails from a small village in the Patoda tehsil of Beed district of Marathwada, but it migrated to Kharda in search of work about a decade ago. The slain boy Nitin’s father Raju Aage is a manual labourer who does the hard work of breaking stones in a quarry. Nitin’s mother Rekha is a casual labourer who does whatever work she gets. Since they are migrants they do not live along with the Dalit community in the village, but have an isolated small hut on the outskirts. Apart from Nitin who was their only son, they have three daughters, two of whom are married, and the youngest is in the eighth standard.

According to the narrative told to us by Raju Aage, on the fateful morning of April 28 Nitin went to his school which is just opposite his house for extra coaching classes for the twelfth standard. It appears that he was friendly with a girl from a so-called higher caste. She was one year his junior in school. On that day he was seen talking to that girl behind the school building by her brother Sachin Golekar. Sachin and his friends confronted Nitin and started badly beating him up in the school premises itself. 

Nitin Aage's school in Kharda village. It was here that he was first brutally beaten by upper caste youth.
Seeing this, the headmaster and some teachers, instead of stopping the beating and warning Sachin, apparently told them that “there should be no fights in the school premises, and that they should go out of the school compound and do what they want.” Raju Aage was very bitter about the role of the school teachers. He said that had they stopped the fight and sternly reprimanded the goons, his son might still have been alive today.

As it happened, Sachin and his friends dragged Nitin to a nearby brick-kiln owned by his maternal uncle Sheshrao Yevale. Here he was beaten up mercilessly by a hammer, he was burnt by iron rods and finally he was strangulated to death. The perpetrators of this crime were around a dozen upper caste people, most of whom were relatives of Golekar and Yevale. The inhuman torture of Nitin continued for over four hours. Then they took the body and hung it from a nearby tree in order to make it appear like a suicide by hanging.

Nitin’s parents got word that he had been severely beaten up. They frantically searched for him all over the village. Nitin’s mother went to the above brick-kiln where she was told by Sheshrao Yevale himself that they had beaten up Nitin and that he would return home in the evening. Finally, after a prolonged search they were stunned to find his body hanging from the tree. The post-mortem report showed that Nitin was assaulted and strangulated.


We went to the school and spoke to the headmaster who was not only evasive in replying to our questions, but also resorted to the ploy of attacking the character of the slain Nitin. We met the Investigating Officer in the case – Deputy Superintendent of Police Dheeraj Patil. He told us that a total of 13 people had been arrested. They had been charged with murder and the SC/ST Atrocity Act had also been applied. He said that no stone would remain unturned to secure their conviction and investigations were on towards that end. When asked about the girl, he said that she was safe and secure. As a result of the statewide uproar, the state home minister announced that the case would be conducted in a special fast track court. 

CPI(M) delegation meeting the Investigating Officer in the case Deputy SP Dheeraj Patil.
The Golekar and Yevale families were among the dominant economic and social strata in the village. Apart from having a reasonable amount of land they also owned several shops, a brick kiln and other paraphernalia. One member of the Golekar family was the deputy sarpanch of the village (the sarpanch post was reserved for the Scheduled Castes). Another family member was on the school board and another controlled the local co-operative. We were told that they owed political allegiance to the NCP for the last several years.

That perhaps explains why the guardian minister of Ahmednagar district, Madhukar Pichad of the NCP (who is himself an Adivasi) nevertheless took over five days to visit the village of the caste atrocity. He made the ridiculous excuse that the election Code of Conduct came in the way of his visiting the village earlier.

The need of the hour now is to build a strong unity of all sections of the working people, not only to condemn such caste atrocities and also atrocities on women that are on the rise in Maharashtra as also elsewhere in the country, but also to ensure that such ghastly incidents are prevented from occurring in the future.

Towards this end, immediate protest demonstrations were jointly organised by the CPI(M), the Jaati Anta Sangharsh Samiti (Struggle Committee for the Annihilation of Caste) and by various mass fronts in Mumbai, Pune and other places. Memoranda to the district collectors were submitted in some other districts.

Maharashtra has a glorious tradition of the social reform movement that was spearheaded by Mahatma Jotirao Phule, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, among others. In view of these recent serious events, it is necessary that this tradition is taken forward with even greater grit and determination by the Left in the years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment