This is among the key issues raised in a fact-finding report on the killings published by the Dalit Atyachar Virodhi Kruti Samiti, a non-profit forum that works to stop atrocities against Dalit in Maharashtra. The report was released in Mumbai on Thursday by the nine members of the fact-finding team, which included human-rights activists such as Subodh More, Uttam Jagirdar, Ranganath Pathare and Feroze Mithiborwala, as well journalists such as Jatin Desai and Sudhakar Kashyap.
The team conducted its preliminary investigations in Ahmednagar’s Javkhede village on October 27, a week after farmer Sanjay Jadhav (42), his wife Jayshree Jadhav (38) and their 21-year-old son Sunil Jadhav (pictured above) were found murdered outside their home on their 1.5-acre bajra field.
The killings occurred late at night on October 20. The next morning, relatives found that the Jadhavs’ house was empty and there was blood on the soil just outside. It took two days for the police to find all three bodies, which, according to the report, had been chopped into pieces with an electric saw meant for cutting trees and dumped in a nearby well and bore-well.
While the bodies of Sanjay and Jayshree had been cut in two or three pieces, the highest degree of brutality had been saved for young Sunil. “His body had been chopped into at least 40 pieces, his head had been split in two and the killers tried to stuff all the parts down the bore-well,” said fact-finding team member Uttam Jagirdar.
A well-planned act
Based on the condition and location of the bodies when they were finally found, the fact-finding report alleges that the murders were carried out by a group of ten or more people who must have known their way around the Jadhavs’ property very well even in the dark.
“It does not seem like a spontaneous killing committed in a fit of anger – it was definitely planned well in advance,” said team member Feroze Mithiborwala.
Since Sunil Jadhav had been a student at Mumbai’s Dairy Science Institute, the murderers must have waited for him to visit home for Diwali, he said. In another suspicious sign, the Jadhavs’ dogs were found dead on their farm two days before the family was killed.
The fact-finding team as well as the district-level police officer quoted in its report have compared the Javkhede case to the Sonai triple murder of February 2013, when three young Dalit men had been killed and cut to pieces after one of them allegedly fell in love with an upper caste girl. Additional superintendent of police Sunita Thakre, who is investigating the Jadhav murders, told the fact-finding team that “the modus operandi of both the attacks was the same, the reasons being honour killing”.
The story being peddled by most villagers and news reports is that Sunil Jadhav was having an affair with an older, 38-year-old woman from the neighbouring Wagh family, which belongs to the privileged Maratha caste.
“This story did not make much sense to us and when we looked into Sunil’s Facebook account, we realised that the real issue is probably a bit different,” said Mithiborwala. Sunil’s Facebook profile contains a photo of a young girl – of his own age – sitting in a bajra field. It had been posted in September 2013. She comes from the same Maratha family, and the fact-finding report suggests that the family is now trying to shield her from the glare.
According to the report, Sunil’s mobile phone was missing after the murders, and relatives found photos of Sunil and “a girl” in his bag, which they have handed over to the police. Despite several attempts, Scroll.in could not reach the village or district police.
Shoddy investigation or political pressure?
So far, the local police have detained a number of different suspects for interrogation, but no arrests have been made even ten days after the murders. Instead, the police has registered a case against unknown persons under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
This Act, however, is only applicable when there is a clear case of upper caste people violating the rights of Dalits or Scheduled Tribes. “It simply cannot be registered against unknown persons,” said fact-finding team member Jatin Desai. “This indicates that the police is definitely acting under a lot of pressure.”
Suresh Jadhav, Sunil’s uncle, has also claimed in the report that political pressure was being exerted on the police by “certain powerful political leaders”.
Even though the surviving members of the Jadhav family – Sunil’s grandparents and three uncles – have named the Wagh family as primary suspects, no one from the Maratha family has yet been detained for questioning. “The Wagh family is related to local Shiv Sena leader Anil Karale as well as the current BJP legislator Monica Rajale, so political pressure is very clear,” allegedly Subodh More, another fact-finding team member.
The Jadhav case is the third major case of caste-based killings in Ahmednagar district over the past two years. While the Sonai triple murder took place last February, a 17-year-old Dalit boy was killed in the district’s Kharda village this April.
In fact, just a day after the Jadhav killings, a spate of attacks on Dalits and tribals took place in and around Ahmednagar. On October 21, two members of the Pardhi nomadic tribe were beaten to death in the district’s Parner village; four members of the Matang community were severely injured after being pelted with stones in Ahmednagar’s Patoda taluka; a Dalit youth was found murdered in Parli in the neighbouring Beed district and three others were injured after being beaten up in Beed city.
No arrests have been made in any cases so far. Said More, “We want Ahmednagar to be declared an atrocity-prone district as soon as possible.”
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