FOUR MINOR siblings of a tribal family were allegedly hacked to death with an axe at a village in Jalgaon district on Friday, police said. The children — Sangita (12), Rahul (11), Anil (8) and Suman (3) — lived with their parents, Mehtab and Rumali Bai Bhilala and elder brother Sanjay (16), on a farm at Borkheda Shivar village in Raver taluka. The village is located a kilometre away from Raver town.
According to police, Mehtab, Rumali and Sanjay had travelled to their family home at Gadhi village in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district on Thursday morning for the funeral of a family member and had left the younger children in the care of their landlord Mushtaq Shaikh, whose banana farm they live on and cultivate.
Arun Patil, the Police Patil of Borkheda Shivar, said the Bhilala family is very poor and lives in a shack on the outskirts of the village. “The family belongs to the Pawara tribe and had moved to the village from Madhya Pradesh eight years ago in search of work. Their home has just the bare essentials and is covered with a tin roof,” he said. The family is the only tribal family in the village of 350 people, Patil said. Sanjay and Sangita studied in Classes XI and VIII, respectively, at a school in Raver town.
The Pawara people are a subdivision of the larger Bhil adivasi community spread across several states in western, central and north-eastern India.
“At 8 am on Friday, Shaikh went to check on the children and found the door to their home closed from the outside. He was surprised that the children were still asleep and decided to wake them up. He called out their names but no one answered. When he stepped inside, he saw all the four children lying in a pool of blood and an axe on the floor,” a police official said.
Senior police officials, including Nashik Range Inspector General of Police Pratap Dighavkar and Jalgaon Superintendent of Police Pravin Mundhe, rushed to the village after Shaikh alerted the local police.
Mundhe said a Special Investigation Team (SIT) had been formed on Dighavkar’s instructions to probe the murders.
“An offence of murder has been lodged at Raver police station against an unidentified person. Assistant Superintendent of Police Kumar Chintha will head the SIT and inquire into every angle,” he said. The motive for the murders was yet to be established, Mundhe added.
A team of forensic and fingerprint experts and the district police’s dog squad swept the home and the adjoining area for clues on Friday morning. The bodies of the children were taken to the Jalgaon District Civil Hospital for a post-mortem. Patil said the parents of the children had rushed to the hospital after being informed by the police.
State Minister of Water Supply and Sanitation and Jalgaon Rural MLA Gulabrao Patil, who was on his way to the village, said he has asked the police to identify and arrest the culprit as soon as possible and examine the possibility of fast-tracking the case once it goes to trial. “This is an extremely tragic incident and the culprit must be given the strictest punishment. We will also seek assistance from (Special Public Prosecutor) Ujjwal Nikam since he hails from Jalgaon,” he said.
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