HT Political Bureau
Mumbai, November 14, 2006
Two policemen found guilty of dereliction of duty will be made co-accused in the killing of a Dalit family in the Khairlanji, a village some 1000km east of Mumbai. The probe now being conducted by the state police will be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
"The inquiry committee has submitted a report recommending action against the policemen," said Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil, who also heads the Home Department. "The CBU has agreed to probe."
As per directives issued on Tuesday, Police Sub Inspector Siddheshwar Bharane and head constable Baban Meshram (of Andhalgaon Police Station in Bhandara district) will face criminal proceedings. Both were placed under suspension sometime ago.
However, Sub-Divisional Police Officer Vinayak Harikisan Susatkar, who was suspended on November 12 for failure in dealing seriously with the crime has been spared. He received a complaint of assault by Siddharth Gajbhiye, which was made much before the massacre. Susatkar did not invoke the provisions of the Atrocity Act and also did not guide his superiors properly in the investigations.
Gajbhiye was assaulted by a group of villagers just outside Khairlanji nearly three weeks before the four members of the Bhotmange family were killed on September 29. Gajbhiye, a relative of the Bhotmange's, incurred the wrath of the villagers as he had tried to resolve the land dispute that involved the family.
Patil said he has asked officials to inquire why Public Prosecutor Lata Gajbhiye did not advice the police to apply Atrocity Act on the accused.
The killings have led to the violent anti-government agitations across the state. The protesters have blamed the government for not acting against upper caste villagers who allegedly committed the crime. So far 32 accused persons have been arrested and several are still at large.
People's Republican Party chief Prof Jogendra Kawade, who spearheaded the agitation, said the CBI inquiry would not stop protests. "We want RR Patil to resign first," he told the Hindustan Times.
Democratic Republican Party president TM Kamble said the CBI probe announcement was an attempt to curb protests while Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh chief Prakash Ambedkar said the government has reacted too late.