Ambedkarite youth lynched by Upper Caste mob in Nanded village
22-year-old Akshay Bhalerao was killed out of spite for celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti in the village.
A 22-year-old Buddhist youth was brutally lynched allegedly by a group of Maratha youth in Nanded’s Bondhar Haveli village late Thursday evening. Activists following the case say that Akshay Bhalerao was attacked and stabbed to death out of spite for organising the first ever Ambedkar Jayanti celebration in the village around a month ago. Six accused have been booked by the Nanded Rural Police under 16 charges including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
“All the accused have been in our custody since last night. The victim was cremated this afternoon. We will formally carry out the arrest proceedings this evening. All accused belong to the Maratha community,” Nanded Rural PI Ashok Ghorband informed.
This is not the first time that an incident of atrocity has taken place in the village. For several years, tensions have persisted in the village over the celebration of Ambedkar Jayanti, that is Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14.
“The Savarna youth in the village have been prohibiting the organisation of Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations in the village saying that it has never happened before. But this year, the celebration took place. There was a procession, people were dressed in their best clothes, Bhim Geets were being played. While the police did not permit the use of DJ, the procession carried on with a band. The Maratha community in the village did not like this. The tensions thus kept on brewing and ultimately resulted in Akshay’s death,” leader of a Dalit Panther outfit Rahul Pradhan, who has been working in the area for several years, said.
Akshay Bhalerao was an active Ambedkarite activist in the village, who led the Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations this year, villagers say. His cousin Sandesh Bhalerao described him as a good man, as he spoke about Akshay.
Akshay Bhalerao,a youth,was brutally murdered by casteist village goons for celebrating Bhima Jayanti.The incident,which casts black light on humanity, has taken place in Bodre Haveli village of Nanded district maharastra.Home Minister should order immediate arrest of the accused pic.twitter.com/MJqDf3N4JV— Nilesh_Pawar (@NileshP29712509) June 2, 2023
On the fateful day, Thursday, June 1, there was a wedding in a Maratha family in the village. A varat or wedding procession was taking place in the village with DJ, where allegedly, casteist slogans were being shouted.
“Akshay and his brother Akash had gone to a grocery store to buy some things for the house. The shop was on the route of the wedding procession. When the crowd spotted Akshay, a few of them yelled, ‘Grab him, he wants to be a leader, celebrate Jayanti in the village. Let’s finish him’. Eight-nine of them got caught both the brothers,” Pradhan said.
“A few of the men in the procession just pulled him, stabbed him and left him there to die. As I heard about this, I went to the spot immediately and tried to save him. But by the time we took him to the Nanded Civil Hospital, we had already lost him,” Sandesh said tearing up.
Those close to the incident say that Akshay’s stabbing was so horrendous, his stomach was torn open and inner organs were protruding out after the attack.
“Akshay’s brother was also attacked by the accused. And when his mother went to intervene, they pelted stones at her. They are both injured, but not critically,” Pradhan said.
Everyone in the Buddhist settlement is afraid for their lives now. “There is police bandobast. But there is fear around here. These incidents keep on happening. Hatred is always spewed upon us. But no one bothers to do anything about it,” Sandesh says.
No one in Bondhar Haveli knew the way their day was going to turn on Thursday. However, Pradhan says that the incident is just an escalation of the atrocities that the Buddhist community in the village faces on a daily basis.
“The village has had a long history of atrocities against the Buddhist community. In 2015-16, the Buddhist settlement in the village was attacked by the Maratha community. There was stone pelting on the Bauddha Vihar as well. An FIR was registered at the time under the Atrocity Act. The community also faced a boycott from the Savarna villagers because of this for a while until the District Collector intervened. But the atrocities against the Buddhist community have not stopped since,” Pradhan says.
Pradhan has accused the Savarna community in the village of harassing the Buddhist community on and off for the past several years.
“Every four-six months, atrocities take place in the village. Many people from the Buddhist community here go to Nanded city every day for work. While returning home from work at night, many of them, especially women, face harassment from the people from the Savarna community. They use casteist slurs against the Buddhists, make vulgar remarks against the women. These incidents keep happening. We have informed the police of these acts multiple times, but the police do not cooperate, unless something big like this happens. Despite such tensions, there is not even a police chowki in the village,” Pradhan alleges.
The police have registered a case under sections 3(1)(r), 3(1)(s) and 3(2)(va) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 302, 307, 324, 323, 294, and 504 of the Indian Penal Code and sections 4, 25 and 27 of the Arms Act. The FIR names Santosh Tidke, Datta Tidke, Krishna Tidke, Nilkanth Tidke, Narayan Tidke, Shivaji Tidke, Mahadu Tidke, Baburao Tidke and Balaji Mungal as the accused.
Nanded Rural PI Ghorband, however, denied the existence of such tensions between the communities here.
“I have been here for the last two and a half years. On April 29, we had organised a meeting in the village, wherein people from the Buddhist community and a few from the Savarna community participated. The Savarnas handed over 75 kg of flowers to the Buddhist community for the first-ever celebration of Abedkar Jayanti in the village. There are some unruly youth, however, who bring all the bad things from the cities to the villages that are in close proximity. Alcohol is also a major factor,” Ghorband says.
Nanded district has been infamous for increasing cases of caste-based atrocities. “It has the background of the Namantar Movement (the movement to change the name of Marathwada University, Aurangabad). The violence that began in the district after the Namantar movement continues in the form of atrocities even today. The fire is still burning. There are cases of atrocities in some or the other village in Nanded every other month,” Pradhan says.
For several years, he adds, the police station would deny the Buddhist community permission to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti in the Bondhar Haveli. It was denied this year as well. However, after Dalit Panther activists and villagers spoke to the Nanded District Collector and Nanded SP, the community was finally granted permission to take out a procession at the end of April.
Bauddh youth Akshay Bhalerao killed in alleged attack by Maratha community at Bondhar village in Nanded, Maharashtra | His brother has been injured, admitted to hospital. Bhim Army delegation approaches police station, demands murder case u/s 302 of IPC against the accused. pic.twitter.com/wbzoAS0kOV— MUMBAI NEWS (@Mumbaikhabar9) June 1, 2023
“I have found out that there have been tensions between the communities in the village for several years. There have been police complaints in this regard. We have tried to bring harmony between the two communities. We also ensured that the Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations were granted permission this year. We are trying to build coordination between the two communities. But we need to do more, I cannot see any other option. We need to make these communities sit together, dine together and have a dialogue more often,” Nanded SP Shrikrishna Kokate said.
He also said that the police plan to take preventive action against some miscreants as well as some senior police officials will hold meetings in the village every week. The SP expressed hope that these steps will also help the Buddhist community to speak out against the atrocities.
“But why does a man have to die for everyone to wake up?” Pradhan questions, “Why was no action taken when people were complaining of day-to-day atrocities in the village. Akshay could have been saved.”
A week of atrocities
Just a couple of days prior to this incident, a 21-year old Dalit man Jigarbhai Kanubhai Shekhaliya and his family members were assaulted allegedly by the upper caste Rajput community members on Tuesday because he wore sunglasses and good clothes. Seven people were booked in relation to this attack. A few hours before he was assaulted, one of the accused had allegedly also threatened to kill Jigarbhai for “flying too high”.