Pune cook accused of impersonation by IMD scientist: ‘She said because of me, her God had been desecrated’

“On September 6, Khole (the IMD scientist) came to my house at 9 pm. She yelled at me and accused me of cheating her by hiding my caste," the cook said.

Pune cook booked: Nirmala Yadav, who was booked in a case of impersonation for allegedly hiding her caste and marital status, said the complainant Dr Medha Khole never asked her about caste. (Source: Express Photo by Arul Horizon)

Nirmala Dattatraya Yadav (60), who was booked by the Pune City Police on Thursday in a case of impersonation following a police complaint filed by Medha Vinayak Khole, on Friday refuted all allegations levelled against her, saying that she never hid her caste or marital status. Khole had accused Yadav of hiding her caste and marital status, and pretending to be a married Brahmin woman, to secure a cooking job during a religious event at her house.

Yadav, a widow who lives with her son at a rented apartment in Samarth Complex in Raikar Mala, Wadgaon Dhayari, has filed a cross-complaint against Khole, a scientist with the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Accordingly, police have lodged a non-cognizable offence against Khole under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 584 (intentional insult) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Speaking to The Indian Express, Yadav said, “On September 6, Khole came to my house at 9 pm. She yelled at me and accused me of cheating her by hiding my caste. She said that because of me, her God had been desecrated. She abused me with harsh words and hit me on the head with her bag … she also called the police control room. After some policemen came to my house, Khole shouted at me in front of them …”.

“Next day, I went to the police chowki, where Khole again made false allegations against me. My family members, as well as senior police officers, tried to calm her down, but she remained adamant and lodged a complaint against me…. I have also lodged a complaint against her. Police have cooperated with me and I hope to get justice,” she added.

Khole, the deputy director general (weather forecasting) at IMD, had alleged that Yadav had contacted her while she and her sister were looking for a woman who was a Brahmin and a ‘suvasini’ (a married woman whose husband is alive), to cook food at their house during religious events, including a ritual called ‘sowala’, in May 2016.

Khole had alleged that Nirmala had claimed her surname was Kulkarni, and that she was a Brahmin and also a ‘suvasini’, due to which they entrusted her with the task of cooking food during various rituals in 2016 and 2017, and paid her about Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000.

But, claimed Khole, she came to know from a priest that Nirmala was not a Brahmin and that “hurt her religious sentiments”. So, she went to Nirmala’s home and questioned her about “hiding her caste”, and then lodged an FIR against her at the Sinhagad Road police station under sections 419 (cheating by personation), 352 (punishment for assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of the IPC.

Yadav, however, claimed that she had never contacted Khole to seek work. “It was Khole who came looking for me. I don’t know from where she got my contact details. I told her my name was Nirmala Yadav and not Kulkarni. Without making any inquiries about my caste and marital status, she offered me the job of cooking at their house during rituals. I cooked for them during three rituals… the most recent one was during Ganeshotsav last week. She has not paid me anything till now. Whenever I asked for money, she gave petty reasons and avoided paying me. She had promised to give me money for my work during the three rituals, which is about 8,000, within a few days. I believed her because she is a senior government officer,” she said.

Instead of paying her, Khole started making “false allegations”, said Yadav. “I never hid the fact that I am a Maratha and a widow… My son used to work at Lavasa, but lost his job two years ago. Because of that, I started accepting cooking jobs to earn some money,” she said.

Yadav’s son-in-law Tushar Kakade, an office-bearer of Shivsangram organisation and an active participant in the Maratha agitation, said, “We condemn Dr Khole, who works in the field of science, but whose sentiments are hurt because a widow from another caste cooked during rituals at her house. Khole called her for cooking jobs repeatedly because they liked her work. But instead of respecting the widow, she insulted her by lodging an FIR. Legal action should be taken against Khole for such a shameful act”.

Assistant Police Inspector Jyoti Gadkari said they are probing the offence lodged by Yadav against Khole. Despite repeated attempts, Khole was not available for comments. Meanwhile, Anand Dave of the Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasangh, who initially supported the FIR lodged by Khole, issued a statement saying Khole should take her complaint back, and rituals like ‘Sowala’ have nothing to do with the caste of a person.

The Sambhaji Brigade also issued a press release stating that the incident was in violation of the Constitution and demanded action against Khole for “misusing her position to lodge a wrong complaint”.

Representatives of Raje Shivrai Pratishthan, Lokshahi Jagar Manch, Abhinav Nirman Pratishthan, Shivsamarth Pratishthan, as well as activists of Hindutva organisations including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Samasta Hindu Aghadi and Hindu Mahasabha, held a meeting with Yadav to support her and demanded that Khole should submit an apology for lodging the FIR.

The women’s wing of the NCP staged protests near Khole’s residence. The Maharashtra Andhashradhha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS) has also condemned Khole’s act. A group of activists accompanied by police also marched to the IMD, but officials made it clear that the issue was personal and had nothing to do with the organisation. Khole still holds her post at IMD, Pune, but is known to be on leave for over a year due to health reasons.

Khole had been embroiled in a controversy in 2013, when some residents of Sitapark Society had filed about 20 complaints against her and her sister Varsha at the Shivajinagar police station, over some arguments. The Khole sisters had called the complaints fabricated and also filed counter-complaints with police.

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