Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said that "everything possible" will be done to punish the guilty and bring speedy justice in what is referred to as the "Bhandara incident" of dalit violence - accounting for the rape and brutal murder of four members of a peasant family by upper caste goons at Khairlanji village in northeast Maharashtra on September 29 last.
Emerging out of 10 Janpath, Bhaiyalal Bhotmange - the only surviving member of the family - said that he was "hopeful and reassured" that justice would finally be done to him. "The Maharashtra government did not do anything; that is the reason that I came here to meet the Congress President", added Bhotmange - after a meeting with Gandhi on Saturday morning as part of a 14-member delegation led by legislator from Sakoli (Bhandara) Sewakbhau Baghaye Patil.
"Now that the CBI has been assigned the case, our plea was that speedy justice should be delivered. The Congress president provided us an unconditional assurance in this regard", Patil said.
The delegation - comprising representatives of an NGO called Samajik Nyaya Sanghatana - met other senior Congress leaders including Ahmed Patel, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Mukul Wasnik and Prabha Rao. They also plan to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil.
In a memorandum submitted to the Congress president, the Samajik Nyaya Sangathana has demanded that a special court should conduct the Bhotmange case and that the provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act be reviewed in order to incorporate more stringent provisions.
According to reports, a 40-strong mob entered Bhotmange's hut on September 29 - dragging out his wife daughter and two sons. The two women were allegedly raped and all the four were later done to death by axe blows.
Reports suggested that they were beaten up with bicycle chains and other implements - and their bodies were loaded on to a bullock cart and dumped in a canal about two kilometres away. According to the forensic report, they died from,"intracranial haemorrhage and neurogenic shock".
The incident has been widely condemned by civil society/political groups - triggering off widespread protests.
Sometime back, CPM Politburo member Brinda Karat led a party team to village Khairlangi for an on-the-spot assessment. Her party, subsequently, demanded immediate prosecution and arrest of all police officers and doctors concerned who had allegedly connived in helping the accused.
Photographs of victims, a CPM statement said, shows that not a single inch on their body that is suffering of injuries - but the post-mortem request does not reflect this.
Clearly, the investigation is contaminated and polluted with crass anti-Dalit prejudices. Evidence has been destroyed, the post-mortem report fudged, the accused given time to build their alibis and witnesses threatened, it added.