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11 days after Dalits beaten up in Pune district, perpetrators remain at large

Mumbai(dna): Eleven days after an attack on the Bhingardive and Kamble families from Lakhewadi near Indapur in Pune district, the main suspects remain at large. The victims have said that the crime was motivated by caste considerations, which the state government denies. The victims have also alleged that it is only because of political patronage that a majority community family tried to eliminate them.

The Bhingardive family members have alleged that because of political influence by MLA Dattatray Bharane and the fact that Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde is a distant relative of the suspects, the police is not taking action against the suspects. Bharane has refuted the allegation and has maintained that he has not intervened in the case in any way.

Lakhewadi, a small village located around 175 Kms from Pune, is situated in Indapur taluka. Here the Matang community is in the minority while the Dhangar (shepherd) community is the majority. On June 26, as a result of ongoing animosity between families, the Bhingardives had a war of words with members of the Shingade and Kurunge families. This resulted in an attack on the Bhingardive and Kamble families. The Kambles are the relatives of the Bhingardives.

On June 26, the Shingade family members, along with a few accomplices, attacked the Bhingardive family, and beat them up severely. The Bhingardives approached the police, who refused to take down any complaint, and drove them out. The Shingade family was reportedly incensed by the fact that the Bhingardives approached the police station with a complaint against them, and set ablaze the Bhingardives’ house that night.

8 people from the Bhingardive and Kamble families were injured. They are under treatment at Indapur and Pune government hospitals.

Vilas Bhingardive and Rukmini Kamble, who were injured in the incident, told Zee Media that they were beaten up mercilessly by Shingade family members who had brought a few criminals with them. Vilas alleged that a police officer named Kale did not pay heed to his complaint, and instead drove him away while making casteist remarks against him. Another family member, Bhagwan Bhingardive, also accused police officials of having a partisan approach and alleged that police were acting against them due to pressure.

Local activists of the Matang community, Lahu Shakti Sena President Lalendra Shinde and Taluka Vice-president of Matang Ekta Aandolan, Sharad Gaikwad, alleged that the police station was hesitating to act against the majority community because of local MLA Dattatray Bharane. There was also the fact, the activists said, that MoS Ram Shinde is a distant relative of the suspects.

Both Gaikwad and Shinde demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident and immediate suspension of API Kale who ignored atrocities against people from the Matang community. Meanwhile Ramdas Athavale, the Republican Patry of India (Athavale Faction) President and Rajya Sabha MP, demanded that an Additional Superintendent of Police be appointed at district headquarters to prevent atrocities against Dalits. Athavale also demanded Dalits be provided with arms licenses for self-protection.

Athavale visited Lakhewadi and met the victims in hospital on June 30.

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