12 yrs on, justice for Mumbai Dalit colony
Nearly 12 years after the controversial police firing in a Mumbai suburb, a fast track court sentenced the then State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) Platoon Commander Manohar Kadam (56) to life imprisonment for causing homicidal deaths of 10 Dalits in the firing. HT Correspondents report.india Updated: May 08, 2009 01:07 IST
Nearly 12 years after the controversial police firing in a Mumbai suburb, a fast track court on Thursday sentenced the then State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) Platoon Commander Manohar Kadam (56) to life imprisonment for causing homicidal deaths of 10 Dalits in the firing.
The Dalits were part of a mob protesting against desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue in Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai on July 11, 1997.
Ad-hoc Judge SY Kulkarni handed the maximum punishment, considering the large number of victims, and that the firing was ordered without assessing the situation and violated mandatory norms.
Judge Kulkarni found that Kadam had ordered firing within 10 minutes of his reaching the scene and did not try to resort to a cane-charge, teargas shelling or firing in the air.
The impact of the killing was such that Dalits, who form roughly 12 per cent of the state’s population, voted to defeat the Sena-BJP alliance government in the 1999 elections. The alliance has not returned to power since.
What incensed Dalits was the way the then Chief Minister Manohar Joshi (Sena) and Home Minister Gopinath Munde (BJP) had defended the firing — arguing that the police resorted to firing as the mob was about to torch a nearby oil tanker.
“It is delayed justice but it will surely help the Congress-NCP build faith among the Dalits,” said Ratnakar Mahajan, Executive Chairman of the State Planning Board.
BJP leaders Munde and Nitin Gadkari did not comment on the verdict.
The court discarded the ‘gas tanker’ theory put forth by Kadam and the then ruling Shiv Sena-BJP combine. According to the officer, the mob, which had already set some vehicles on fire, was moving towards the tanker standing on the Eastern Express highway. Kadam said it was at this moment that he ordered his platoon to open fire, sensing danger of the mob setting the tanker ablaze and affecting the entire area within 10 km of the tanker’s periphery.