Four upper caste people were awarded life imprisonment on May 2, 2017, by the sessions court in Beed, Maharashtra, for attacking a Dalit family and burning down their house and belongings.
The Sessions court held Kisan Devkar, Somnath Devkar, Dnyaneshwar Baban Devkar and Ashok Devkar guilty for beating and abusing the family of Ashok Khatkhade, who had to run away with his family in order to save their lives in February 2012.
According to people familiar with the matter, Kisan Devkar lost the Gram panchayat elections in January 2012, following which he and his associates attacked the home of Khatkhade, who had been helping the opposition party.
While the decision has been welcomed by Khatkhade and his family, he had to struggle for over five years to get to this point. Unhappy with the progress in the case, Khatkhade had demanded a government lawyer to argue on his behalf a year and a half ago. Following his plea, lawyer Sanghmitra Vadmare from Aurangabad High Court was selected to fight the case on behalf of Khatkhade.
There was also a big fight for the inclusion of all the right provisions of SC/ST (PoA) Act. According to Sambhaji Tangade, a freelance journalist, “to save upper caste peoples of this case, the police officer ignored so many articles of the Atrocity Act. But Khatkhade was so stubborn that he went to Gevrai session court and accused even the Police officer under Article 4 of the SC/ST PoA Act in his petition. After this step taken by Khatkhade, the right Sections were added to the case”.
Reacting to the verdict, Khatkhade told Marathi newspaper Dainik Samrat that “he still lives in fear from the residents of the village.” He said that there was a lot of pressure on him to take back his complaint and he was even offered money to withdraw the complaint. Siddharth Shinde, a lawyer who assisted Khatkhade from the beginning, told Twocircles.net, “Khatkhade had to regularly change the way to his home because of the threat messages. He still is in fear because four upper castes have been arrested.”
Prashant Mohod, a teacher and social worker from Aurangabad said, “This (life imprisonment) is good news and people will also pay attention to this news. A lot of activists try helping the people but get frustrated due to lack of positive results. This is an encouraging verdict and gives more belief to people like me who believe in the constitution of India”.