The verdict in the Khairlanji case, delivered by the sessions court in Bhandara, needs to be welcomed. It sends a strong message and will act as a deterrent so that no majority group targets a weaker section of society, as casteism is still strong in India, especially in rural areas.
The incident came as a shock for Maharashtra, which calls itself a progressive state. Though there were initially doubts over the probe, it now appears the CBI and special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam built a foolproof case.
The case has also opened up a debate: Should such cases be filed under the Atrocities Act? The court considered it a case of murder, and not a Dalit atrocity. The verdict is obviously based on the evidences and facts presented before it.
Social analysts point to the strains of the caste system in the case. A group of villagers dared to brutally kill a family as they knew no one from their village would stand behind the victims, who were from a lower caste.
“Though the verdict sends a strong message to those who still practice untouchability, it appears that the court treated the case as a murder and not a caste conflict. This is something the government should challenge in the higher courts. We still have the caste system rooted deep in our country,” said sociologist Nandini Sardesai.
Special public prosecutor Nikam said the state would have to think about this aspect. “The decision will have to be taken by the CBI and I would advise them to go to the higher courts,” he said.