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Baba Amte’s granddaughter dies day after she said family dispute ‘solved’

Sheetal Amte-Karajgi, the 39-year-old granddaughter of the late Baba Amte, died at her residence in Anandwan, the world-famous leprosy asylum set up by Baba at Warora in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, on Monday.

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur | Updated: December 1, 2020 7:50:07 am
Baba Amte, Baba Amte birth anniversary, Baba Amte Anandwan, Sadhanatai Amte, Narmada Bachao Andolan,Knit India mission, Baba Amte leprosy, indian expressPolice are probing if Sheetal Amte died by suicide. (Twitter/@AmteSheetal)

Days after a public family feud, Sheetal Amte-Karajgi, the 39-year-old granddaughter of the late Baba Amte, died at her residence in Anandwan, the world famous leprosy asylum set up by Baba at Warora in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, on Monday.

Responding to unconfirmed reports that it was a case of death by suicide, Deputy Superintendent of Police Nilesh Pande said, “We have not yet found any suicide note.” He said he didn’t have details of post-mortem findings. “It may not even be a suicide,” he told The Indian Express. Police have for now registered a case of accidental death, he said. Chandrapur Collector, Superintendent of Police and Civil Surgeon also did not share findings of the post-mortem report till late Monday night. Sheetal was later buried at Anandwan near Baba Amte’s samadhi in the presence of all the family members.

Sheetal, a doctor who was Anandwan’s CEO, died two days after a dispute with elder brother Kaustubh (43) was settled on Saturday. She acknowledged the resolution in a WhatsApp message to this reporter and later in a telephonic conversation. She was the daughter of Vikas Amte, one of Baba’s two sons.

“My father-in-law called Prakash Kaka (Amte) and told him that it was acceptable to us that Kaustubh would be a member of the Maharogi Seva Samiti (MSS) trust and he would handle the Somnath project of MSS,” she had told The Indian Express.

The Indian Express had on Saturday reported that Sheetal had accused Kaustubh of several irregularities while he was at Maharogi Seva Samiti — a public charitable trust that operates the leprosy asylum Anandwan in Warora and two projects at Somnath and Hemalkasa. He had been removed from the trust earlier. But he had recently returned to Anandwan and was to be reinstated in the trust by elders in the family, including father Vikas and uncle Prakash.

Sheetal and her husband Gautam Karajgi had vehemently opposed Kaustubh’s reinstatement. Sheetal had also put out a video on Facebook levelling several allegations against Prakash and his son Aniket, along with a few others.

The Karajgis, on the other hand, were accused of running Anandwan in “corporate style”, removing some of the old guard of the institution. Sheetal’s father Vikas, mother Bharti, uncle Prakash and aunt Mandakini had last week issued a statement acknowledging her contribution to Anandwan but asked people not to believe her accusations. They said that she was going through depression.

“A resolution to include Kaustubh was passed in a virtual meeting of the trust on October 29. Sheetal and her husband Gautum had opposed it but it was passed by majority vote,” Prakash told The Indian Express. He said the husband and wife had later agreed to Kaustubh’s inclusion.

In a WhatsApp message to The Indian Express on Sunday, Sheetal wrote “problem solved”. “It has been decided that Kaustubh would be taken back in the trust and would look after the Somnath project. I have no problem with that,” she had said.

“We are shocked. Only yesterday, they said they had no problem with Kaustubh’s reinstatement. On Monday morning, Gautam also chatted about it with me on mobile and also sent a thanks message. We are at a loss to understand what happened in a couple of hours after that when this news came,” Prakash told The Indian Express.

A post-mortem was conducted at Government Medical College, Chandrapur and forensic experts were called in from Nagpur for investigation. Her room was sealed and electronic gadgets were taken away by the police.

The sibling rivalry had started about five years ago. Kaustubh had resigned and had engaged himself with a water-related project at Pune. Three years ago, Sheetal was made MSS CEO, a post originally not in the organisation’s hierarchical set-up but carved out specifically for her. Since then, she had been leading the charge at both Anandwan and Somnath.

Of late, the seniors in the family were insisting on taking Kaustubh back in the trust. A formal resolution to the effect was moved in the trust meeting on October 29 by a member, Narendra Mistri. All except Sheetal voted in favour of it. Sheetal had tweeted a painting done by her on Sunday, titled “war and peace”, on Monday morning. Baba Amte, a recipient of Padma Vibhushan and Gandhi Peace Prize, had set up Abandwan in 1959, Somnath project in 1957 and Hemalkasa project in 1973.

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