In an attempt to avoid further embarrassment on the eve of winter session of the state legislature, beginning at Nagpur from December 4, the state police arrested the sarpanch and upsarpanch of Khairlangi, where four members of a Dalit family were butchered by upper caste Hindus in September.
Confirming the arrest, the Bhandara district police superintendent (SP), Suresh Sagar informed that both the sarpanch, Upasrao Khandate and his deputy, Urkuda Khurpe were held on Thursday evening on charges of conspiracy, murder and riots. With these arrests, the number of arrests in this connection reached 47.
Bhaiyylal Bhotmange's wife, Surekha, daughter Priyanka and sons, Roshan and Sudhir were hacked to death and thrown into a ditch, only because the family did not part with their land which the upper case villagers wanted for a road, on September 29 this year.
The issue became heated and different parts of the state, particularly Vidarbha, were tensed over the protests by several Dalit organisations. Large-scale violent activities were also witnessed in the region in the wake of the massacre last month.
Different political and social organisations, particularly the RPI, led by legislator Jogendra Kawade demanded that all the villagers, including the sarpanch and upsarpanch of Khairlangi, be arrested on the charge of the heinous act. Kawade also insisted that the Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil, who holds the Home portfolio, should be made a co-accused in the brutal killings.
Police officials are also accused in this case for their inaction and for allegedly protecting the culprits. Being the head of the Home department, Patil cannot escape responsibility in the offence. Hence, the RPI categorically demands he (Patil) too be made a co-accused, he pointed out.
The state government had already suspended the sub-divisional police officer, Vinayak Susadkar, the police-in-charge of Andhalgaon police station, Siddheshwar Bharne and the Khairlangi beat head constable, Baban Meshram.
The government also shunted out the district SP, Sagar elsewhere. However, he could not move so far as his reliever is yet to come to take the charge.
Both the sarpanch and his deputy claimed that they were innocent. "We were victimised due to political pressure from certain quarters," they alleged. The action against the sarpanch and upsarpanch also surprised many as both were arrested after two months of the incident and just three days before the winter session of the state legislature. Incidentally, the upsarpanch, Khurpe is from the tribal community.
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