In the village, the divide between upper and lower castes is rigidly maintained

Till Monday, Kharda village had never seen caste violence. But on the afternoon of April 28, a 17-year-old Dalit boy, Nitin Aage, was brutally killed and hung from a tree by three men of the Maratha community.

In the village in Ahmednagar’s Jamkhed tauka, 330 km from Mumbai, this reporter found that though there had been no violence, the divide between the upper castes and the lower castes was rigidly maintained.

In fact, Nitin’s mother stated that she had warned him to not get into a relationship with Sapna* (name changed). “I had asked him to stay away from her. There was no need to take on the upper caste people,” Rekha Aage told The Hindu on Wednesday. Nitin was killed two days later, on Monday.

The Ahmednagar police have arrested Sheshrao Yevle (42) and the girl’s brother, Sachin Golekar (21). They have been booked for murder and under relevant Sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They have been remanded in police custody till May 6. A third person was detained.

According to the police, Nitin was seen talking to 14-year-old Sapna in school on Monday. Some people of the Maratha community called her brother. Police say that Nitin was first beaten up outside the school. He was taken to the brick kilns owned by the girl’s family, Golekars, where he was harassed. According to the police, he was then allegedly strangulated and hanged from a tree, to create an impression that he committed suicide. However, the post-mortem report has revealed that Nitin died due to strangulation, says Additional Superintendent of Police Shailesh Balkawade.

Nitin was an only son, and his parents are daily wage labourers who crush stones for a living. His is the only family that lives away from the rest of the Kharda village.

“If they killed my son for the sake of honour, why did they spare their daughter?” Nitin’s father Raju Aage asks angrily. “I want them to be punished and meet the same fate that my son had to.” he stated.

“He never brought any argument home. He was studying in the 12th Standard and wanted to find a job. He was scared of me, and was an obedient boy,” Mr. Aage said.

The Aages and many other villagers stated that no major dispute had occurred between the upper castes and Dalits in Kharda village. “We stay away from the rich people. We have been living in the village fearlessly for so many years. But they got angry with my son for no reason and killed him,” Mr. Aage said.

However, Sapna’s family claims that Nitin was beaten up, and not murdered by her brother.

“Nitin was troubling Sapna, and when her brother got to know, he thrashed him. It was just meant to be a warning. But he must have felt insulted, and committed suicide,” Sapna’s sister-in-law said. “My husband was only protecting his sister. Is there anything wrong in doing that?” she asked.