Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Acquittal of three persons disappoints Dalits

Acquittal of three persons disappoints Dalits:

Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange

BHANDARA(Maharashtra): Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange reacted with shock and disappointment on Monday to the acquittal of three persons in the case of the murder of his family at Khairlanji nearly two years ago.

He lost his wife, Surekha, teenaged daughter Priyanka and two sons, one of whom was partially blind.

Bhaiyyalal was hounded by the media after the ad hoc sessions court announced the verdict, convicting eight persons. But Bhaiyyalal, escorted by Congress MLA Nitin Raut and several politicians, was barely allowed to speak.

“The three persons acquitted are not innocent. They are guilty and they should be punished,” said a dazed Bhaiyyalal. He also regretted that there was no conviction under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Though rape charges were not framed against the accused, Bhaiyyalal suspected sexual assault. It came as a shock to him that the accused were not even convicted under Section 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty) of the Indian Penal Code.

Bhaiyyaolal said the CBI, which investigated the case, discharged 35 people. They should be rearrested and tried, he said.

Relatives of Surekha are equally disappointed. Rajendra Gajbhiye, who claims he was a witness to the incident, alleged the three who were acquitted were, in fact, the main accused, but they had connections with the ruling parties. Gajbhiye was not included by the CBI as a witness.

Surekha’s brothers and sister wept on hearing the verdict. Her eldest brother Madan Khobragade could not control his tears. He said all his hopes for justice were dashed. “I feel they will be let off in due course. How can this happen all the time? “I wanted all of them to hang.”

Yagnapal Khobragade, another brother, said he expected this to happen. “I am totally dejected at the verdict.”

Surekha’s elder sister Sudan Raul felt that the verdict would threaten her family’s security. “I am so upset. Why did they acquit three people,” she cried. She lives at Deulgaon, very near Khairlanji. This is where Surekha and her children were cremated.

Though Bhaiyyalal is not in touch with Surekha’s family, they feel strongly about his plight. “How can the government do this to us? We want justice from this court,” said Sudan.

There is widespread disappointment at the court not considering that caste differences were a reason for the crime.

Surajbhan Chauhan, BSP district head, said the party would wait for the sentence next week before deciding on a course of action.

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