Dalit community rallies for justice in teenager's alleged honour killing on Ambedkar Jayanti
Teenager's honour killing becomes a rallying point for the community as it gathers in the city to mark Ambedkar's death anniversary; CM Devendra Fadnavis assures action
The Marathas may have got justice for the Kopardi gang rape, but the Dalit community is still waiting for their share of justice for inter-caste crimes, namely the honour killing of Nitin Aage in Kharda village in 2014. The 17-year-old Dalit was allegedly murdered because he was suspected of having an affair with a Maratha girl. All nine accused were acquitted after several witnesses turned hostile in the case.
On Tuesday, a faction of the RPI staged a demonstration outside Mantralaya to demand justice for Nitin Aage
Even as Dalits from all over the state congregate in Mumbai to pay their respects on Dr BR Ambedkar's death anniversary today, Aage's death has become a rallying point for the community's leaders. Dalit leaders from various parties have demanded that the government appeal against the acquittal and ensure punishment for the accused.
The acquittal has become a sore point, especially when compared to the completely opposite outcome in the Marathas' crusade for justice – after state-wide protests over the gang-rape of a 14-year-old Maratha girl in Kopardi, three Dalit men were sentenced to death for the crime last month. Incidentally, the judgment in both cases was announced last month. Both Kopardi and Kharda are situated in Ahmednagar, where caste politics is still prevalent and has come to assume great proportions over the past three years in the wake of clashes between Marathas and Dalits.
Community begins crusade
Taking a cue from the Marathas, the Dalits now intend to launch a series of protests to ensure their voice is heard. Yesterday, the Kharat faction from the Republican Party of India led a protest march to Mantralaya. The demonstrators sat outside the main gate and shouted slogans, demanding that the government ensure justice for Aage with serious efforts like in the Kopardi case.
The day before, Bhalchandra Mungekar, former Congress MP, declared that he would start a state-wide protest march from January 1. Mungekar also intends to lead a protest march to Ambedkar's memorial at Chaityabhoomi today.
"Aage's killers should be tried under the Atrocities Act (Scheduled Castes and Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act) that was amended last year," he said, adding that a local BJP legislator had not allowed the Aage family to agitate at Azad Maidan because the government did not want the protest to intensify ahead of Dr Ambedkar's death anniversary.
CM's firefighting efforts
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis set his men to work on the issue on Monday evening. Amar Sabale, BJP MP and Dalit leader, took Aage's father Raju to Fadnavis, who assured that the government would appeal before the high court and seek action against the hostile witnesses. The CM said the law department was preparing an appeal petition.
Number of accused who were acquitted in the Kharda killing
Number of witnesses who turned hostile in the trial at Ahmednagar
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Nitin Aage, 17, was killed on April 28, 2014, allegedly on suspicion of having an affair with a Maratha girl. The victim's family named 13 people, including three minors, most of them relatives of the girl. According to the prosecution, the Std XIIâÂÂstudent was abducted from his school to a brick kiln where he was subjected to inhuman torture and later found hanging from a tree. In November, an Ahmednagar court acquitted all accused in the case, as 13 of the 26 prosecution witnesses turned hostile.