Meena Menon

Police register case 12 days after attack

Eight of the accused arrested on August 17, released on bail

The accused roam freely in the village and threaten Dalit families

Nagpur: For 34-year-old Vasanta Bagde, August 14 was not memorable like the eve of India’s 60th Independence Day. That night, he was badly beaten up at Selgaon Lavne village in Wardha district and left to die. Over a month later, he is recovering at his wife’s house in Nagpur.

Back from hospital 10 days ago, he cannot walk as both his legs are fractured in several places. His left arm is broken, his head still has injury marks and the skin of his back is flayed. The police registered a case under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, and attempted murder only 12 days after the incident. Eight of the 11 accused were arrested on August 17 under Section 324 of the Indian Penal Code for causing injury with dangerous weapons, and released on bail soon after.

The police have applied for cancellation of the bail of the accused but they are still to be rearrested. They roam freely in the village and threaten the Dalit families. Under the Act, the charge sheet has to be filed within 30 days of an offence being registered, which has not been done. Deputy Superintendent of Police Arvi G.S. Yempalliwar, who is in charge of the case, says that initially the police thought it was a personal quarrel.

There has been no caste tension in the village. The police had sought an opinion from the senior public prosecutor on August 23 who said there was no need to apply the Atrocities act.

Tension prevails

In Selgaon village, a two-hour drive from Nagpur, there is a lot of tension. Communities in the village are polarised after the incident. There are over 30 houses belonging to the scheduled castes and they are in a minority. The majority are from the Bhoir Powar community from the other backward classes (OBC). Vasanta’s father and brother Tulsidas live in fear. Tulsidas, who is a daily wage labourer, said he saw the whole incident. “I saw them dragging away my brother and they were going to kill him. When I tried to speak about the incident at a meeting called by the deputy superintendent of police, he said he would arrest me. How will people have the courage to give evidence,” he asks.

Vasanta vows never to return to the village. “They will kill me. I have three children. What if they do something to them?” He said he would rather continue his job as a truck driver as soon as he recovered.

On August 14, he was returning to his village along with a friend Tukaram Pharkade when he stopped at a corner near Chandewani after seeing the deputy sarpanch of Selgaon, Hanumanta Pathade, and his son. “I asked them why they had stopped there. While chatting with him I mentioned the fact that 10 wells had been allotted under the Prime Minister’s special package for farmers to various people in the village. Yet no member of our community was given a well,” he says.

Three farmers in the village have committed suicide. “Hanumanta started shouting and said I had no right to ask him this question. He called me a Mahar [a scheduled caste],” explains Vasanta. When this exchange happened, Hanumanta’s son went to the nearby village Chandewani and got people saying Vasanta was beating his father. Some people came from Chandewani and took away Vasanta’s bike. His friend, Pharkade, sensing trouble, ran way and Vasanta said he walked to Selgaon.

“When I reached my house in Selgaon, there was a group of villagers armed with heavy wooden sticks who started beating me. My old mother who is partially blind came out to stop them and they beat her also and she fell on the ground. My wife too came out to stop the mob. After beating me up, they tied my feet with a rope and dragged me to the Boudh Vihar, a distance of 600 metres, and left me there. They thought I was dead,” says Vasanta. He said they had brought rubber tyres and kerosene and were planning to set him on fire. The police came just then and took Vasanta, who was barely conscious and bleeding all over, to the police station at Karanja nearby. His mother was unconscious and she lay in the field behind his house till late in the night. Later, she too was taken to Nagpur to a private hospital.

Sevanta, his old and frail mother, has become almost completely blind after the attack. Her right frontal bone and temporal bones were fractured, apart from her nasal bone, according to hospital reports. The police deny she was attacked, they say she fell down and injured herself. Sevanta cries as she talks with difficulty. “What did my son ask for? Did he demand money or something to eat that they had to nearly kill him?” she asks. The family has already spent over Rs. 1.5 lakh for treating Vasanta and his mother.