Rahul Babaji Phatangade took a day off on Monday. The automobile garage which he ran, in Chandan Nagar of Pune city, about 20 km away from his home, remains closed on New Year’s Day every year because of the crowd that comes to this area to mark the anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle.
The 30-year-old was walking back to his house in Sanaswadi village in the evening when he passed a petrol pump where a mob was gathered. Until then, there were sporadic incidents of violence between Maratha and Dalit groups reported from neighbouring villages since afternoon.
A jacket with Maratha warrior Shivaji’s face embossed easily identified Pharangade as a Maratha. He was accosted, severely assaulted and beaten to death, according to local villagers.
“Sanaswadi residents are shocked at Rahul’s death. He was not involved in riots but was targeted by the mob because he was wearing a jacket having a picture of Maratha king Shivaji Maharaj,” local villager Dnyaneshwar Metgule said. He did not witness the death.
Rahul’s friend Datta Sitaram Pardhe lodged the FIR in this case at the Shikrapur police station. Police have booked unidentified persons under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code. Police said that the incident took place around 5.30 pm.
“Investigation is on and the murderers are yet to be identified,” said inspector Dayanand Gawade.
Phatangade’s body was taken to his native village Kanhurmesai in Shirur taluka for the last rites. He lived with his mother in a one-room house that was locked on Tuesday. One of his two brothers works with the police department. The other is a student. Villagers said the family members wanted Phantangade’s assailants to be arrested.
“Rahul was a very simple person, a good human being who never had a quarrel with anybody. It is sad that his life ended in such a manner. He was a big support to his mother. After his death, relatives have taken her mother to their native village for rituals,” said Rahul’s neighbour in Sainath Nagar.
A few hundred residents in Sanaswadi gathered and protested against the violence on Tuesday. Inspector General of Police Vishwas Nangare Patil and district superintendent of police Suvez Haque appealed to residents for peace promising action against the attackers.