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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Kulbhushan Jadhav: A shy guy who used to spend most of his time on his farms in his native village

Villagers say they have been glued to the television since Monday, when news of Jadhav’s death sentence on charges of spying broke.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2017 19:18 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times
Kulbhushan Jadhav’s house in Anewadi, Satara.
Kulbhushan Jadhav’s house in Anewadi, Satara.(Raju Sanadi/HT Photo)

It used to be one of hundreds of nondescript villages that dot the arterial highway between Mumbai and Bengaluru, known only to people for a toll plaza that saw eateries and shops mushroom around it since it opened in 2004.

But in the past few days, Anewadi has been pitchforked to the national spotlight after former Indian navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav – whose family owned land and a house in the village – was given the death sentence in a military court in Pakistan.

Villagers say they have been glued to the television since Monday, when news of Jadhav’s death sentence on charges of spying broke. They are not aware of the wrangling between India and Pakistan over the 46-year-old, or the fast-deteriorating diplomatic ties, but say they remember Jadhav as a shy man who kept mostly to himself.

“Whenever he came to Anewadi, he has something to offer to the villagers,” said Sadashiv Tilekar, who runs an auto spare-parts shop in the village of 5,000 people located in Maharashtra’s Satara district. “The charges are completely false. I knew him for the last 10 years since he had purchased land in our village.”

Many of Anewadi’s inhabitants them are sugarcane farmers and agricultural labourers who remember working on the land Jadhav’s family – originally from Mumbai – owned in the village. The former navy officer would come down to Anewadi on a couple of trips every year and spent most of his time in the farms that ring the village.

Local residents say Jadhav gave away school uniforms, blankets and other school stationery and stayed in the red-bricked, asbestor-roofed, one-storey family home that stands out among the cramped clusters of small pukka houses in Anewadi.

“He would speak little,” recalled Dada Patil, who owns a plot adjacent to Jadhav’s farm.

The former navy officer, villagers said, was a family person. “He would bring his parents. We often saw him taking care of his old parents,” added Patil.

The villagers still appear shocked by the Pakistani army court verdict and Jadhav’s future dominates discussion every evening at the tea stalls that line the semi-concrete road running through the village. Many say they know the odds are stacked against Jadhav but take hope in the release of Chandu Chavan, another soldier who crossed over the border and was captured by Pakistan.

“We know it’s (Jadhav’s release) not easy. But government can do it if it decides,” said Ashwini Shinde, Anewadi village head. Shinde said Jadhav can be brought back home the way Chavan returned back. “On behalf of Anewadi villagers, I urge the government to expedite the efforts for Jadhav’s return till it becomes too late,” said Shinde.

The 22-year-old Chavan, who hailed from Dhule in Maharashtra around 400 kilometres away, returned to India after dialogue between the two countries. The villagers want to meet the defence minister and personally make a request for initiating a similar dialogue.