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Jail officials await final word on Kolhapur sisters

Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit being taken to thecourt. File Photo: Special Arrangement

Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit being taken to thecourt. File Photo: Special Arrangement

Curtains are finally set to come down on one of India’s most squalid crime sagas with President Pranab Mukherjee last month rejecting the mercy petitions of half-sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit.

The duo, along with their mother Anjana Gavit, stand accused of the kidnapping of 13 children and the murder of 10 of them across various districts in Western Maharashtra. In 2006, they were convicted by the Supreme Court of five of those murders.

Since then, a Damocles sword has been hanging over the fate of the duo, set to earn notoriety as the first women to be hanged in the history of Independent India.

The two-week buffer period before their execution came to an end last Saturday.

‘No intimation yet’ “There has been no intimation on the issue from the State Home Ministry as yet. There has been no word on the black warrant,” said Yogesh Desai, Superintendent, Yerwada Central Jail, while refusing to comment on the preparations.

The sisters, hailing from Kolhapur, were initiated into crime by their mother while still in their teens. They were sentenced to death by the Kolhapur Sessions Court in 2001. Since then, they have been languishing in Yerwada Jail.

Between 1990 and 1996, they allegedly killed nine children — all under the age of 10 — by starving them or banging their heads (especially those of toddlers) against walls or electricity poles. The kidnappings and murders were spread over Pune, Thane, Kalyan, Kolhapur, and Nashik.

“The sisters’ modus operandi was using small children, often toddlers, as diversions to distract the public while one of them was engaged in stealing purses. When in the danger of being caught, the other used to throw or bang the child to the ground or any hard surface. The object was to elicit sympathy by manipulating the public’s emotions,” says human rights lawyer and activist, Asim Sarode.

Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Sarode, who, at one time, assisted the Apex Court judge with the case, recounts the eerie calmness with which Renuka Shinde answered his questions about the murders, all the time stroking a stray cat.

“In one of their particularly gruesome murders, they hung a two-year-old upside down, bashed his head against the wall and chopped him to pieces. They then went for a movie at a local theatre in Kolhapur, eating bhel puri. All the while, the bag, with the chopped remains remained under their feet,” he says.

“While I’m professionally and personally against the capital punishment, this is indeed one of the rarest of the rare cases where the perpetrators deserve the death sentence,” remarked Mr. Sarode.

Files appeal Following the end of the buffer period, the duo has filed an appeal at the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court. According to the sisters’ defence counsel in Kolhapur, Manik Mulik, the murders had been committed by their mother, Anjana, who died two years after the duo’s arrest in 1996.

“The case against the sisters primarily rests on the statement of Renuka’s husband, Kiran Shinde, who turned approver naming Anjana as having carried out the kidnappings and killings. As Anjana died even before the trial began, the police made him change his statement in which he blamed his wife (Renuka) and sister-in-law (Seema Gavit),” said Mr. Mulik.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 1:37:55 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Jail-officials-await-final-word-on-Kolhapur-sisters/article60341103.ece