LATER this year, it will be five years since four youngsters were murdered in Kurar, Malad over what appeared to be a minor argument. On June 6, 2011, the partially charred and naked bodies of Chetan Dhule (24), Dinesh Ihire (26), Ganesh Karanje (24) and Bharat Kudle (27) were found in the deserted hillocks of Appapada, behind Kurar village. They had been kidnapped one by one in an autorickshaw, marched on foot up the hill and then murdered, allegedly by local toughie Uday Pathak and his gang, following a minor faceoff the previous evening.
Years later, for the families of the four men, the pace of trial in what came to be called the Kurar quadruple murder is worrying. A 550-page chargesheet was filed in September 2011, and little has moved since.
Not even the first stage of trial, the framing of charges, has been completed even as family members struggle to keep track of what is holding up the legal process.
The four and three others who escaped, had been kidnapped. All seven were friends and members of a local band. According to the police, history-sheeter Uday Pathak and 16 others, all residents of the Tanaji Nagar area of Malad, across the Western Express Highway from Shantaram Pada where the deceased resided, were responsible. The police arrested Uday Pathak and 15 others.
Pankaj Dhule, Chetan’s elder brother, drives an auto-rickshaw to earn a living. He was employed in Goregaon in 2011 and had been on night shift when the incident took place. “It was a Sunday. Three of my brother’s friends had suddenly come home, scared. They told us that some people from Tanaji Nagar had abducted four from their group including Chetan over a petty fight. They would kill them, the boys had said. These three had managed to escape and looked very scared,” Dhule said. The next day, following a search by locals and policemen, the brutalized bodies of the four were found atop a hillock.
According to investigations and the account of the three youngsters, Bharat Kudle and another youngster had visited Tanaji Nagar that day to collect payment for an orchestra performance. Kudle, standing on the street, was spotted by Uday Pathak, known to invoke fear in the area. An argument ensued when Kudle, who reportedly did not even know Pathak, said he was waiting for a friend.
“Pathak and his friends started arguing with him and it led to a fight. Only for this, Pathak and his gang killed them,” Dhule said.
According to the police, Pathak and his men kidnapped them one by one. They picked up one man first, then called the second saying the first was going with them to discuss a prospective orchestra assignment. This went on until they had the seven of them.
At the entrance of Shantaram Pada, a banner with photographs of the four who could not escape is strung across the street. Local store owners remember the residents’ gheraoing the police and blocking Western Express Highway to protest the killings. Dinesh Vichare, a local, says there still persists “a fear in hearts of youngsters in the area”.
Pankaj, who met with an accident last year, lost his job and is struggling to earn a living. “I would attend the hearings earlier but around two years back, I was told the matter just gets adjourned. No point going to the court on every hearing. Sometimes I think we won’t get justice. But we have Ujjwal Nikam (special public prosecutor in the case) as our lawyer. We hope he will get us justice,” he says.
Ask if anything has changed, and Pankaj says, “My friends tell me Pathak’s clout in Tanaji Nagar area has in fact grown. His men tell people to remember what happened to our boys. This is what I have heard.”
All Pankaj has as a remembrance of his brother is a small drum that Chetan played. “All other instruments I distributed among his friends,” he says.
Lawyer P Pandey who represents Pathak said charges have not been framed in the case as Pathak, currently lodged in Arthur Road jail, filed an application before the Supreme Court asking for the case to be transferred outside Maharashtra as he feared “that since the deceased were Maharashtrians, there would be a bias”. Pandey said he hopes to file a bail application at the next hearing on the grounds that the trial has failed to begin even after five years.
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