Tragedy has no colour, but in the sleepy Kherlangi village it is splashed red with the blood of the marginalised.
The Dalits of Kherlangi are still bleeding, though the wounds do not show. Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange — the only one to escape the assailants’ knives in September — refuses to settle for anything less than death for the killers. His wife, daughter and two sons were killed in cold blood in the dusty outpost of 700 in Andhalgaon in Bhandara district, on September 29.
The Bhotmanges were one of the three neo-Buddhist families in the village, a backward Kunbi bastion.
On September 3, Siddharth Gajbhiye, a village-level Dalit police officer of neighbouring Dhushala village and a distant relative of the Bhotmanges was beaten up by the villagers. They suspected that he was having an affair with Surekha, Bhaiyyalal’s wife. Gajbhiye, also a victim of the carnage, escaped to Kamptee near Nagpur and got himself admitted to a hospital. He petitioned the Kamptee police and the complaint was transferred to Andhalgaon. An FIR was lodged there.
As Gajbhiye could not identify his attackers, the Bhotmange family — wife Surekha and daughter Priyanka — named the villagers who beat up Gajbhiye during police investigation. They were arrested on September 28 and later released on bail, a day before the vendetta killing.
The enraged villagers returned to Kherlangi, raided Bhotmange’s house and vented their anger on Surekha, daughter Priyanka and sons Roshan and Sudhir. The mother and daughter were stripped and raped for over an hour before being hacked to death. Their bodies were dumped in a canal.
Bhotmange alleges that sarpanch Upash Khandate and deputy sarpanch Urkanda Khurpe were involved in the killing and they should be arrested. But the incident is laced with strong caste overtones. The deputy sarpanch is a tribal, while the sarpanch is from the OBC Kalar group.