Javkhed Khalsa village in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district once won the Tanta Mukta Gaon Puraskar, an award for being dispute-free. Today it is simmering with tension and bitterness after a brutal triple murder that no one can explain.
On October 21, three members of a Dalit family were murdered and their remains dumped in a well, with two of the bodies chopped to pieces.
Various organisations have protested on the streets. Politicians have been making visits everyday to the village. Activists from Dalit as well as upper-caste groups have been calling on the family’s surviving members. The police are asking questions, conducting searches and allegedly harassing villagers to the extent that they have observed a bandh in protest. The 3,500-odd villagers, who belong to 19 different castes, are spending their days in fear and confusion. For neither they nor the police have any hint of the motive.
Sanjay Jagannath Jadhav, 42, his wife Jayshree, 38, and their only son Sunil, 19, were killed in their home. Police suspect there was more than one killer. The family was probably sleeping when the killers struck them with hard, sharp objects in the early ours. They chopped the bodies of the men with a hacksaw or a cutter, and dumped some of the remains in the well and the rest in a borewell ditch. Jayshree’s body was in one piece, recovered from the well with an injury on the head.
Sanjay is survived by three more brothers and their parents, who live in the village. Sunil was in his second year at Dairy Science Institute in Goregaon, Mumbai. He had come home for the Diwali vacation.
“We last saw them around 7.30 pm on October 20. The next day, villagers told us they were missing and bloodstains had been found in their room,” said Jagannath, Sanjay’s father. “Around 4 pm, their bodies were found in the well. Some pieces of the bodies were later found in the old borewell ditch. We never had any dispute with anyone.”
The Ahmednagar police, who have registered cases against unidentified persons for murder and under sections of the SC/ST Act, are investigating the possibility of a dispute having led to the murders. They are carrying out searches looking for a possible local connection. Another theory is about a love affair.
Activists have drawn a parallel with another triple murder in a Dalit family in Sonai village, also in Ahmednagar, in 2013. One member of that family had been in a love affair with a girl from an upper caste. There too, the bodies had been chopped to pieces and dumped in a nearby well.
Police are probing whether Sunil had been in love, and if so, whether the girl belonged to an upper caste. Sunil being a student in Mumbai, police say, his modern appearance and outlook might have offended the traditional lot in the village. On Sunil’s phone and Facebook page, police say they have found photos of him with a girl. They have spoken several times to Sunil’s classmate and roommate Sajid Shaikh, also from Javkhed Khalsa.
Sajid told The Indian Express that he had shared a room with Sunil in Mumbai since August. “Police showed me a photograph of Sunil with a girl. I have never seen Sunil in any quarrel before. I have told the cops whatever I knew. But the police slapped me and threatened me with arrest.”
To protest alleged harassment by the police, villagers observed a bandh Wednesday. District SP Lakhmi Gautam said Sajid was only questioned and no villager was manhandled, as some of them have alleged.
“It is the duty of police to interrogate people, so we are supporting them. But we have requested the investigators to ensure that innocent persons are not harassed,” said Charudatta Wagh, the sarpanch.