“They lashed me with wires and sticks on my bare back and kept me hanging for over an hour in the cowshed. The humiliation was more agonising than the lashes. I wanted to suppress my tears, but I just kept crying. All the while I was asking myself what my crime was…”, the 18-year-old recounted the ordeal from his bed in the general ward of Sakhar Kamgar Hospital in Shrirampur town, Ahmednagar district.
He is one of the four youths, aged between 15 and 21, who were allegedly semi-stripped, hung upside down and brutally lashed with wires and sticks over suspicion of stealing pigeons from the house of one of the accused in Haregaon village, Ahmednagar, on August 25.
A probe has revealed that three victims are Dalits, while the fourth is from an upper caste community. Ahmednagar district police on Monday arrested two more accused in the case, taking the number of arrests to four, and have charged one more person, taking the number of accused booked to seven.
The arrested are Manoj Bodkhe, Pappu Parkhe, Deepak Gaikwad and Yuvraj Galande, on whose farm the incident took place after his pigeons were allegedly stolen. While Galande and Bodkhe are from an upper caste community, Parkhe and Gaikwad are Dalits. A search is on for two more suspects Durgesh Vaidya and Raju Borge. Galande’s father Nana Galande was also booked on Monday but is yet to be arrested.
A video of a young man hung upside down from a tree, and being beaten up by some people had triggered outrage in Shrirampur town and surrounding areas on Sunday. The man seen in the video is a 21-year-old Dalit youth pursuing a general nursing and midwifery course .
“I just want my grandson to be better and back in college. I want him to complete his studies. Those who have done this to him must be punished most strictly,” says his grandmother, who works as a conservancy staffer at a local college.
All four youths are being treated at a Sakhar Kamgar Hospital in Shrirampur, where dozens of members of Dalit organisations and other social outfits poured in to meet them through the day.
DSP Basavraj Shuvpuje, who is the investigating officer in the case, said, “In addition to the two arrested earlier, we have arrested two more on Monday and they have been remanded to police custody. Probe is on to arrest three more persons.”
On Monday afternoon, Dalit organisations held protests outside the court where the two suspects were produced.