Santosh Pakhare is 32, a father of two and a ‘juvenile in conflict with law’. Last month, Pakhare, who had been lodged at the David Sassoon Children Home (DSCH) in Matunga, Mumbai, for a murder he allegedly committed in 1997, when he was 15, was booked in another murder case, that of a 17-year-old fellow inmate.
On May 23, in his dying declaration to the Mumbai police at Nair Hospital, the minor said he had been repeatedly beaten by two inmates, one of whom he identified as Pakhare. The minor succumbed to his injuries on May 28 and Pakhare was sent to judicial custody at Central Jail on Arthur Road.
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It was only last year that Pakhare was remanded in a children’s home for a murder he allegedly committed 17 years ago, when he was 15. On December 8, Pakhare was in his family’s three-acre soyabean field at his native village Dudha in the interiors of Vidarbha when he was told of his visitors from the Juvenile Justice Board.
A juvenile court in Buldhana district of Maharashtra had convicted him of murder and sentenced him to two years in a correction home.
The 1997 murder for which Santosh had been convicted revolved around a ‘one-sided affair’, between Pakhare’s cousin, 17-year-old Anil, and a Class VIII student, Rekha Kharat.
The Mehkar police, which investigated the case, say that a jilted Anil, after having failed to get Rekha’s attention, hit her on a head with a sickle and she died instantly. Anil later returned home and poisoned himself.
The prosecution alleged that Pakhare was with Anil when he traded the blows.
Pahare’s father Trimbuk, 61, refuses to believe his son killed that day. He recalls that on August 16, 1997, he had sent Pakhare to Hiwara Ashram, a township near the village, to get a shirt stitched in the evening. At 9 pm, he says, he was told that his son had been booked for murder. “Anil consumed poison after killing the girl. My son was instantly charged for murder and taken away by the Mehkar police after a witness told the police that Santosh was also at the spot,” says Trimbuk.
On December 31, 1999, a sessions court in Buldhana convicted him of murder. “Santosh started the new year in Dhule jail. He spent three and a half months in jail before the Nagpur High Court accept his appeal that he was a minor when the incident happened, “ his brother Sandeep recalls.
While ruling that Santosh would stand trial again, as a minor, the High Court had said if found guilty, Santsosh would have to spend time at a special home in the state. The trial went on for 14 years at the juvenile court in Buldhana. It was then, between 2000 and 2014, that Santosh went back to living his life. He shifted to Ulhasnagar, on the outskirts of Mumbai, and earned Rs 5,000 a month from his work as a driver. In 2009, then 29, Pakhare moved back to Dudha and married Shalini, a girl from the neighbouring Kalyana village, and became a father in 2011. He now has two children, a four-year-old son and a year-old daughter.
That’s when the past returned to haunt him. After the juvenile court convicted Pakahare, he was kept in a special home in Buldhana for two years.
On January 6, he was moved to the David Sasson Children Home in Matunga. That’s where he allegedly killed the minor.
Santosh’s elder sister Shardha, 37, says authorities at the children’s home told her of “a fight that had broken out in a room on the second floor” and of an injured juvenile who had allegedly blamed Santosh.
“When the boy succumbed to his injuries, I asked Santosh if he was involved and he cursed his luck. We haven’t told his wife or children about this incident. My parents are weak and the village will not stop talking if they get to know. All Santosh wanted to do was farming and be with his children,” says Shardha, who lives in Kalyan and visits him every week.
Back in the village, Pakhare’s wife Shalini says she visited him at the children’s home a month ago. “I went to Mumbai with my children and an uncle. It costs us Rs 500 each to get there. I asked him about his health and he spoke about his routine. He will be home soon,” she says.