On February 9, Satish Parasram Bhagat, a 19-year-old hearing and speech impaired Dalit from Kanarkheda village in Hingoli district of Maharashtra, did not return home.
Three days later, his half-burnt body was found on the farm of Madhav Pandhurang Patale, near the village.
According to Assistant Police Inspector R.S. Jadhav of the Goregaon police station, Satish Bhagat was killed by some villagers for “stealing fruits from their farm.”
But according to Satish’s family members, the police are trying to cover up the case. They say it’s a case of narbali (human sacrifice).
“The incident took place many days ago and the police took our blood sample for the DNA test only on March 1,” said Parasram Bhagat, father of the victim.
“When the body was found, the police did not take it to the hospital for the post-mortem. Instead my elder brother carried the body to a van and then took it to the hospital. The body was lying in the hospital for more than a day,” says Sunil, the victim’s brother.
Sunil Bhagat says the police ensured that the news of his brother’s murder was not published in the local media.
The victim’s father and brother have written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prime Minister, President, the National Commission for SCs and STs, the Union and Maharashtra Home Ministers and Director-General of Police, Maharashtra.
Six held: Police
In the letter, Parasram Bhagat alleged that the police readied the FIR and “made me sign it without allowing me to read it. I was in deep shock over the death and signed on the paper given by the police. The accused named by the police in the FIR are not those named by me.”
He also alleged that the police had arrested Baban Chikankar and Damodar Chikankar but they were not the real culprits.
The Superintendent of Police (SP), Hingoli district, Sudhir Dhabade, denied the family’s allegations of police laxity. “Six accused have been arrested so far and some others are under the scanner. We will arrest more people if we get more evidence. We cannot go on arresting people unless and until we have concrete evidence,” Mr. Dhabade told The Hindu.
Six accused have been booked under Sections 302, 201, 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3, 2, and 5 of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in this case, according to police.
The SP denied that it was narbali and said the boy might have died of shock from the electric fences of a nearby farm and his body may have been burnt to destroy evidence.
Satish’s family members have accused Goutam Bhagat and his son Vijay Bhagat of the same village, of involvement in the crime. The police have arrested Vijay Bhagat but his father is still evading arrest.
The victim’s family alleged that the investigating officer, Dy SP M.S. Perke, had threatened to implicate the victim’s brother in the case if the family did not keep quiet.
Mr. Perke has denied the allegation. “I did not threaten the family or the victim’s brother. You can check my record, I have received [the] President’s medal. I have registered the highest number of cases under the Atrocities Act. The family is giving new names every day, still we are investigating it. I am ready to transfer this probe to any other officer, if the family does not have belief in me,” said Mr. Perke.
Sunil Bhagat and his father have threatened to go on a fast-unto-death if the “real culprits” are not arrested.
“My brother was deaf, dumb and blind in one eye. But he was clever and would do all the housework after my mother passed away last year. His body was found half burnt and the police are doing everything else than properly investigating the case,” says Mangala, sister of the victim.
“Why would somebody kill a deaf and dumb boy for stealing fruits? We do not believe the police theory. This is a case of narbali and everyone in the village knows that the people named by us are believers in the black magic,” says Sunil Bhagat.