The killings were gruesome, but had no connection with the caste tussle in Khairlanji village, said ad hoc sessions judge S.S. Das, while delivering the judgment in the murder of four Dalits two years ago.
The Bhandara ad hoc district and sessions court on Monday held eight of the 11 accused guilty in the brutal murder of four members of a Dalit family in Khairlanji — about 780 km from Mumbai.
On the evening of September 29, 2006, a frenzied mob barged into Dalit farmer Bhaiyyalal Bhotmanage's house and lynched his wife Surekha (44), daughter Priyanka (17) and sons Roshan (23) and Sudhir (21). The mutilated bodies were then dumped in a nearby canal.
While the court held Sakru Binjewar, his son Gopal, Shatrughan Dhande, Vishwanath Dhande, Ramu Dhande, Jagdish Mandlekar, Prabhakar Mandlekar and Shishupal Dhande guilty for unlawful assembly, rioting and murder; Mahipal Dhande, Dharampal Dhande and Purushottam Titarmare were acquitted for lack of evidence.
A pale Bhaiyyalal, who was in the courtroom with his relatives, said he was unhappy with the acquittals. “All guilty should be hanged,” he insisted.
The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence on Saturday. After the ruling, the state government said that it would appeal against the judgment.
Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil on Monday said the state government would ask the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to appeal to the Bombay High Court.
“The murders were shameful and all the culprits deserve the harshest punishment possible for their gruesome deeds,” he said. “As a government we will not tolerant the targeting of Dalits or backward classes.”
Government prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said he was surprised that criminal conspiracy to murder the family was not considered. “Our principle arguments were that a conspiracy was hatched to eliminate the Bhotmanages and the entire episode was an outcome of a caste war. However, the court rejected the contention,” he said.