"After they spat and urinated on me, one of the men beating me said that this is what our stature is — equivalent to spit and urine," said Shubham Maghade (21) recalling horrors from the evening of 25 August when six men hung him from a tree with his hands and feet tied together and beat him for hours.
Shubham, whose video went viral on social media and has drawn outrage from all quarters since, was one of the four boys beaten in the Haregaon village of Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district on suspicion of stealing three pigeons and a goat from the farm of one of the accused men Yuvraj Galande.
Recuperating at the Sakhar Kamgar Hospital in Shrirampur town, Shubham cannot walk properly due to the bruises on his feet from being beaten with cable wires. Neither can he eat properly due to the trauma of what he was subjected to.
A nursing student, Shubham lost both his parents when he was four. While his mother died of injuries sustained in a gas cylinder blast, his father died in a bike accident. Since then, his grandmother Sumanbai has worked as a local help and taken up daily wage jobs on farms to fund Shubham and his elder sibling Akshay's education.
"All of them were drunk. Two of them were holding me and the rest were abusing and beating me. They were too many, I was alone. They were not in a state to listen to anything. I felt so humiliated that I wanted to die," Shubham told The Quint over the phone from the hospital.
Before the call was cut short due to the doctor visiting him for another check up, Shubham and Sumanbai narrated horrific details of the incident.
'I Asked Them to Check Their CCTVs But...'
On the evening of 25 August, Shubham was caught unawares by two of the accused at his own home.
"Around 5:00 pm, Raju Borge and Pappu Parkhe who work as helpers for the Galande family, came to my house and said that they have something they want to discuss with me. They said they will drop me back home in five minutes. When I reached Galande's house, there were five-six people drinking alcohol. The moment I got off the bike, they started beating me. I asked them the reason but they did not say anything at first," Shubham said.
"They then stripped me and started beating me again. They said I had stolen three pigeons and a goat. I told them that they have CCTV cameras all around their house and they can check if I had stolen anything. I told them that I was ready to accept any punishment if I was caught. But they were drunk, not in a state to listen, and only got more infuriated. They then tied me and hung me upside down by the tree, made me lick their spit, and urinated on me," he added.
Shubham's friend Deepak got suspicious after he did not return from Galande's house for a long time and went looking for him.
"Deepak requested them to let me go but they did not listen. They are the Patils of the village, they always acted entitled. They hit Deepak too and threw him out of the house. Deepak stealthily took a video and showed it to one of the villagers called Nana Kharat," Shubham said.
'If I was Home, I Would Have Never Let This Happen...'
For 17 years since his parents passed away, Shubham's grandmother Sumanbai is his sole guardian. She currently works at a farm for a daily wage of Rs 100, along with working as a local help for a few families.
Weeping uncontrollably on the phone, Sumanbai kept asking what Shubham did to deserve the kind of humiliation and abuse he was subjected to.
"I came from work at around 6:00 pm. I had no idea where he was. As usual, I started cooking, made chicken and bhakris for the whole family. Shubham's elder brother Akshay was also home, he had no clue either. Karat then called Akshay to his shop and showed him the video. Akshay wanted to file a case immediately," Sumanbai said.
"They first got him back home. They had spat on him and urinated on him. We bathed him first and took him to the hospital. Shubham told us everything in detail only at the hospital. If I was home, I would have never let this happen. I would have raised an alarm, gathered people, and rescued him," she said as she cried.
'Mothers of Minors Begged Galandes To Spare Them'
Before they picked Shubham, the six accused first allegedly picked three minor children on Friday morning and beat them for several hours over suspicion of stealing the pigeons and the goat. While two of them are Dalits, one belongs to another caste.
"The mother of one of those boys had followed him there. She begged them to not beat him and kept telling them that her son is innocent. But they abused her, misbehaved with her, and threw her out of the house too," Sumanbai said.
"Another woman whose son was taken told the Galandes that if he had stolen anything, she will repay them. She even fell on their feet and begged to let her son go. The child was so anguished and in pain that he said to his mother that this might be the last she sees of him. But they did not take mercy on him. The third boy, they sent him back naked. My grandson was in so much pain that he said, 'Aai, I might die today'," she narrated.
'I Live Only For My Grandsons'
All six accused were arrested by the Shrirampur police at the time of filing this report.
While the FIR has been filed against six accused — Yuvraj Galande, Manoj Bodkhe, Pappu Parkhe, Deepak Gaikwad, Durgesh Vaidya, and Raju Borge — the police later charged Yuvraj's father Nana Galande too.
Local Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) leader Charan Tribhuwan helped the families file the FIR.
Sumanbai, however, fears for the life of her grandchildren and seeks police protection.
"They threatened us saying that it does not matter if we file a case or not. They said that they beat him on their farm this time but the next time, they will take him to an unknown location far somewhere and do worse to him," she said.
"I had no will to live after I lost my son and daughter-in-law. But I decided to live only for the two children. We don't want anything but justice. It's been years since his parents passed away. I have been working hard since only to educate the two children. If my grandson had done anything wrong, shouldn't they have told us or the sarpanch first? Will they just start beating anybody as and when they please?" Sumanbai said.