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2013 Sonai murders: Nashik court awards death sentence to six

2013 Sonai murder case Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Ujjwal Nikam.   | Photo Credit: Deepak Salvi

More than five years after the gory murders of three Dalit youths in Ahmednagar’s Sonai village shook the State, the Sessions court in Nashik on Saturday pronounced the death sentence on the six persons convicted of the crime.

Earlier this week, the court convicted six of the seven men accused in the gory murders that occurred in Sonai village in Ahmednagar where three Dalit youths, Sachin Gharu (24), Sandeep Thanvar (25) and Rahul Kandare (20), were brutally murdered and their mutilated body parts scattered in a septic tank and a dried-up well.

The six accused of the crime include Ramesh Darandale (43), Prakash Darandale (38), Ragunath Darandale alias ‘Popat’ (52), Ganesh alias Praveen Darandale (23), Sandeep Kurhe (37) and Ashok Phalke (44). Ramesh, Prakash and Popat are brothers, while Sandeep Kurhe is a relative of the Darandales.

“It was the opinion of the court that caste prejudices ought to checked like one curbs the spread of a malignant disease. Persons who arrogantly flaunt the ‘superiority’ of their caste by keeping up an unfair status quo through means of violence and other means of spreading hatred should not be allowed to roam scot-free,” said Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Ujjwal Nikam, speaking outside the courtroom after the verdict.

The court directed all convicted to deposit a penalty of ₹ 20,000 each, of which half the amount would be given to the families of the three victims.

Concluding arguments

Earlier, Advocate Nikam, presenting his concluding arguments, had urged the court to award the death penalty to the six convicted for the crime based on 13 parameters which drew on the evidence after cross-examining more than 50 witnesses.

“The murders are a blot on humanity and a cruel reminder of prevailing caste prejudices. A conspiracy was hatched by the Darandales (who belong to the Maratha community) and the plan was carried out with incredible brutality just because a boy from ‘backward’ caste fell in love with a girl from a ‘higher’ caste and the duo were set to marry,” Mr. Nikam had said.

All three youths, who were their respective families’ sole breadwinners, were hacked to death by the Darandales in the latter’s village in Sonai between 3:30 and 8 p.m. on January 1, 2013. The victims belonged to the backward Mehtar (Bhangi) community.

The trigger for the gruesome crime was because Sachin Gharu reportedly fell in love with the daughter of one of the Darandales.

According to the FIR lodged at Sonai police station, Sachin and his colleagues, who worked as sweepers, were summoned by the Darandale family to their home on the fateful evening of January 1 to clean their septic tank.

After committing the horrific murders, Ramesh and Prakash Darandale then contacted the police and reported that Sandeep allegedly drowned while cleaning the septic tank.

This version roused the suspicions of the police when they pulled out the body Sandeep — a six-footer — from a tank that barely contained 2 ft. water.

On further grilling, Ramesh Darandale later changed his story and alleged that Sachin and Rahul murdered Sandeep, dumped his body in the tank and fled.

On probing further, the police later discovered Sachin’s decapitated body, with his limbs severed from the trunk from a nearby well.

Rahul’s mutilated body was later found with severe injury marks. Sachin and his colleagues worked at the Trimurti Pavan Pratishthan School and College in Ahmednagar’s Nevasa Phata, around 30 km from Sonai village. The girl studied at the same place.

Traumatized by the horrific murders, the families of the kin were forced to shift residence for fear of their lives. The case itself was shifted from volatile Ahmednagar to neighbouring Nashik on request from the kin of the victims.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 4:17:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/2013-sonai-murders-nashik-court-awards-death-sentence-to-six/article22478786.ece

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