Nitin Raju Aage was a good student, says his father, scoring 65 per cent marks in his Class X boards. Then, last month, the Class XII student was attacked on the premises of his school with the hammer used to sound the school bell, dragged away and found hanging from a tree. Nobody came to his rescue.
Known for the battle between the Maratha warlords and Nizams of 1795, Kharda village in Ahmednagar’s Jamhed taluka has always been bound by its feudal structure of an upper-caste Maratha majority and minority Dalits. It never took an extreme form as in the killing of Nitin on April 28, but for the Dalits, the silence from the other side over the death of the 17-year-old says it all.
The provocation for the attack on Nitin was apparently his affair with a Maratha girl. He was allegedly seen talking to the girl, a student of the same school-cum-junior college.
Thirteen youths, including three minors, have been arrested in the case. Her brother Sachin Golekar and uncle Sheshrao Yeole are the main accused.
The Aages are low-caste Mahars. Nitin’s parents work as labourers at a stone-crushing unit.
Nitin trained with a two-wheeler mechanic after school. He was known to be reserved, say other Dalit boys. Maybe that’s what made him an easy target, they add. “The Marathas do have animosity towards Dalits, but they never attacked anyone. Most of us came to know that Nitin was a Dalit only after his murder. He and his family never mixed with us even during festivals. Perhaps that’s why those who attacked him didn’t even try to settle the matter of the alleged affair over talks. They just killed him,” says a Dalit youth.
There are different versions about what happened on April 28. According to some activists and media reports, Nitin was picked from his school, where the girl, a student of Class X, was also present. He was reportedly beaten up with the hammer used to ring the school bell in front of the teachers and school staff, paraded before the villagers and finally taken to Yeole’s brick kiln. Here, say some reports, he was again hit, burnt in his private parts and then hanged from a tree.
Raosaheb Shinde, Superintendent, Ahmednagar police, says their investigations show a slightly different sequence of events. “Nitin did not attend classes on the day of the murder. Some students allegedly saw him with Golekar’s sister behind the school premises around 7.30 am. They beat Nitin and called Golekar to the spot. They again thrashed him on the school premises and slapped the girl, asking her to go home. Then they took Nitin to Yeole’s brick kiln. Here they assaulted him with a blunt wooden object on the legs, before strangulating him with a rope. They hanged him from a tree to show that he had committed suicide,” says continued…