The family of Maratha youth Kakasaheb Dattatraya Shinde (28), who died after jumping into Godavari river from a bridge in Kaygaon Toka village in Gangapur taluka of Aurangabad on Monday, has blamed the state government for his death. They have also demanded action against administrative and police officers who, they say, “failed to prevent his death despite being aware of the ‘Jal Samadhi’ warning” given by a local group of Marathas. They also demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
“My brother is a martyr. The Chief Minister should take responsibility over his death and resign. We also want action against police and government officers who did not take preventive action despite knowing about the ‘Jal Samadhi’ agitation…the Maratha agitation will continue and we, the family members of martyr Kakasaheb, will keep supporting it completely, till the community gets reservation,” Avinash Shinde, brother of Kakasaheb, told The Indian Express.
Protesters and Shinde’s family members had initially refused to accept his body after the post-mortem. They did so only after District Collector Uday Chowdhary intervened in the matter, and Shinde’s last rites were performed around 11.30 am on Tuesday. After the funeral, Kaygaon Toka witnessed incidents of heavy stone pelting, and a fire engine stationed in the village was set on fire.
Authorities, meanwhile, swung into action after Shinde’s death. While an investigation has been launched in Shinde’s death, local Tehsildar Chandrakant Shelke and Police Inspector Sunil Birla of Gangapur police station have been asked to go on compulsory leave. Police have filed a case of accidental death at the Gangapur police station and are trying to ascertain the sequence of events that led to the incident.
“A case of accidental death, pending investigation into causes, has been registered in connection with Kakasaheb Shinde’s death. We are probing all the information regarding the incident and accordingly, a case will be registered,” said Superintendent of Police, Aurangabad Rural, Aarti Singh.
She added,”Our first priority is to maintain law and order. The overall situation is peaceful now. There were some sporadic incidents where we had to use mild force to control the mobs.”
Police are also looking into the meetings held by a group of Marathas who took part in the ‘Jal Samadhi’. Initial investigation has revealed that the day before Shinde died, some members of the group had held a meeting and visited the bridge for “preparations”. Police have got the names and contact numbers of some of the persons involved in the “preparations”, as well as the details planned by them, said sources. Some speeches made by local Maratha leaders, during protests in Kaygaon Toka, are also under the police scanner.
Police are also probing a letter addressed to the Aurangabad district collector, dated July 22, which was reportedly released by the group that warned of the ‘Jal Samadhi’. The letter, which has gone viral on social media, was reportedly signed by a few Maratha activists who claimed to be coordinators of the Maratha Morcha and some other outfits. It states that they would hold a ‘Thiyya Andolan’ (seat-in protest) at the temple of Kaygaon village at 10 am on Monday and then take ‘Jal Samadhi’ at 3 pm in Godavari river, unless 31 of their demands, including reservation for Marathas, were fulfilled.
As July 22 was a Sunday, police are trying to find out if this particular letter was submitted at any government office.
However, local agitators said police and the administration had been warned about the ‘Jal Samadhi’. Subhash Kanade Patil, sarpanch of Kanadegaon village, where Shinde and his family lived, said a day before Shinde’s death, protesters had warned personnel of Gangapur police station and the Tehsil office about the ‘Jal Samadhi’, while reports about the warning were also published in local newspapers.
Dr Shivanand Bhanuse, the spokesperson of Sambhaji Brigade, claimed the government and police ignored the warning of protesters at Kaygaon Toka. Bhanuse alleged that police and government administration had not made any arrangements at Kaygona Toka, due to which the “unfortunate incident” took place.
The government has announced compensation of Rs 25 lakh to Shinde’s family and also promised a government job to a family member. Shinde belonged to a farmers’ family and worked as the driver of a local Shiv Sena leader, and was known to be a Shiv Sena worker. He is survived by his mother, brother and sister.
His death had sparked massive unrest, with Maratha protesters demanding reservation in government jobs and education, and giving a call for ‘Maharashtra bandh’ in parts of the state on Tuesday, particularly in Aurangabad and seven other districts in Marathwada region. The protesters also blocked the Pune-Aurangabad Highway for almost 30 hours after Shinde’s death.
“We have identified about 15 groups, comprising 200 to 300 men each, which were involved in the violence. These groups were found blocking roads, burning tyres, pelting stones and setting vehicles on fire. No direct action, like lathicharge or firing, was done on these groups. Considering the situation, it was decided to control the unrest via communication with the protesters. But police teams have videos of those groups… who were found creating trouble. An investigation will be conducted later to understand their linkages and preparations,” said a senior police officer from Aurangabad.