When four members of a Dalit family were murdered in Khairlanji village in 2006, the Dalit community had demanded that the entire village be fined because nobody intervened and tried to help the victims.
The state government has, instead, rewarded the same village with Rs 1 lakh under the state’s Tanta-Mukta Abhiyaan [dispute-free village campaign].
The award was announced on April 1.
Khairlanji, a small village in north Maharashtra’s Bhandara district, attained infamy after four members of the Bhotmange family, Surekha Bhotmange and her children Sudhir, Roshan and Priyanka, were killed by a mob allegedly over a property dispute.
The family’s sole survivor, Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, fought the case in court until the six accused were sentenced to death.
The incident had led to large-scale protests from the Dalit community across the state.
The decision to reward Khairlanji came to light in the Legislative Council on Tuesday when Nationalist Congress Party legislator, Ram Pandagale, raised the issue and voiced his opposition. “It was an incident that put the entire nation to shame,” Pandagle said. “How can the village be awarded for being free of dispute when an entire Dalit family was killed there?” There was no reaction from the government.
Senior leader from Pandagale’s party, R.R. Patil, heads the Home department that gives the award. The Abhiyaan, launched in 2007, is Patil’s pet project. The award is given to a village that has settled minor disputes without going to court. The idea was to reduce minor complaints and prevent villagers from spending time and money over these.
Pandagle objected to Khairlanji being selected for the award. He spoke on this at length in the Council on Tuesday, but was cut off when Deputy Chairman, Vasant Davkhare, walked out of the House because Pandagale did not wind up despite repeated instructions to do so.