He denies that there were burn injuries on Nitin’s body or that he was paraded before villagers.
Dr Yuvraj Kharade, who performed the post-mortem, says that while they found no burn marks, “the marks of strangulation covered the entire neck, suggesting it was a murder.”
Police admit “there can be some witnesses at the school”, and are probing the role of the staff. Prima facie, admitted a police source, “there was negligence”. “We are investigating why they failed to inform the police.” Principal Bhusaheb Dhobe was in hospital, getting treated for “hypertension”, and could not be contacted.
Nitin’s father Raju says, “My wife got to know that some boys were beating up Nitin around 10 am. We found him murdered around 3 pm… I went to the school, asked the principal why he did not stop the boys from beating my son. The principal said he had asked the boys to take the fight outside the premises. Had the principal informed the police, the murder could have been prevented.”
Sunil Salve, district chief of the RPI (Athavale), has demanded the arrest of the principal. “Some persons from the Golekar family are on a committee of the school. Dhobe is friends with the Golekars.”
Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil who visited Kharda also enquired about the role of the school staff. Police are, however, willing to give Dhobe the benefit of doubt. “He thought it was like any other brawl between youths,” says an official.
After the incident, the upper caste accused didn’t flee. According to activist Nitish Navasagare, this shows “their arrogance that nobody can touch them”.
Admits a villager from the Maratha community, “Had Nitin been from the upper caste, there would have been less chance of the boys killing him. At the most, they would have thrashed him and complained to his parents. But because he was a Dalit and poor, they murdered him, thinking they would manage the police using their political links and money power.”
The disparity is clearly visible in the village of 15,000. While its 1,500 Dalits generally do odd jobs or work in the fields, the prosperous Marathas own brick kilns and garment shops.
Since the murder, social activists, political workers, Dalit leaders and ministers have been flocking to the village, and held a march seeking justice.
However, the people the Aages hope to hear from have kept an ominous silence. On the contrary, some Maratha organisations took out protests, accusing the family of giving a “casteist” angle to the murder.
Bapusaheb Gaikwad, a former Dalit sarpanch of Kharda, says, “There are only a few upper-caste men who create problems for political ambitions, all the other Marathas are good. But so far, these good people have not come out to condemn the murder. In private, they do agree that Nitin’s murder was wrong.”
That means little for the Aages. Nitin was their only son among four children. Says father Raju, “I wanted him to be a soldier or police officer.”
Despite what happened at the school, he only wishes Nitin had spent more time there. continued…