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Ahmednagar’s Nirbhaya: After Brutal Rape, Girls Avoid School

On Wednesday, a girl was raped, murdered and mutilated, sparking protests demanding speedy justice in Maharashtra. 

Updated
India
4 min read
Ahmednagar’s Nirbhaya: After Brutal Rape,  Girls Avoid School

Only days before Monday, when the Supreme Court worked overtime to hear the Nirbhaya case, on Wednesday evening, another Nirbhaya was raped, mutilated and killed in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. The brutality in this case is eerily similar to the Nirbhaya case.

A minor girl was gangraped, mutilated and murdered at Kopardi village in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district. The Asian Age reported:

Flesh from all over her body, including her genitals, were torn. Her hair had been pulled out, hands were broken and dislocated from the shoulders, her teeth were broken and she had been strangled to death after rape.

When local media drew attention to the beastly incident, it shocked the collective conscience of Maharashtra. Protests demanding speedy investigations were held.

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The Politics Begins

The incident has taken a political turn, just ahead of the Monsoon Session of the Maharashtra Assembly, which began on Monday. A united Opposition decided to corner the government on this issue.

The incident in Ahmednagar is more horrifying than Nirbhaya. A fast track court should be set up. A special public prosecutor should be appointed. Leaders of all Opposition parties will meet on Monday morning to decide our future strategy on this issue. 
Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Leader of Opposition, Maha Assembly

The Chief Minister quickly accepted all the Opposition’s demands. Flanked by his senior ministers, the Chief Minister addressed a press conference ahead of the Monsoon Session. But the top agenda was, obviously, the announcements regarding the Ahmednagar incident.

He announced that Ujjwal Nikam would be the the special public prosecutor in this case. Nikam was involved in prosecuting the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, the 26/11 Mumbai attack case as well as the Shakti Mills gang rape case.

After Making Baseless Allegations, Opposition Wears Black Badges

The Opposition lost no time in pressing its advantage and making supposedly baseless allegations. The Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde claimed that the main accused, Santosh Bhuwal, was close to Ram Shinde, the Guardian Minister of Ahmednagar district. Munde claimed that Bhawal posted a picture with the minister on his Facebook page.

Picture circulated by NCP workers. A BJP activist with Guardian Minister of Ahmednagar Ram Shinde (R). (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Santosh Bhawal)

The Chief Minister later clarified that the person seen in the picture with Ram Shinde was not an accused (although he shares his name with the accused) and that Munde should publicly apologise for damaging the government’s image. Minutes later, Munde expressed regret on Twitter.

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Police have made three arrests so far in connection with this case. But that hasn’t satisfied the Opposition. The Nationalist Congress Party blocked roads at various places, demanding justice for the minor girl. They booed Deepak Kesarkar, the Minister of State for Home affairs, who visited the family of the victim.

As soon as the second day’s proceedings of the Monsoon Session began on Tuesday, the opposition Congress and NCP legislators, wearing black badges, sought a discussion on the rape, setting aside all other business of the House.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis also said a debate should be held immediately.

Former speaker Dilip Walse Patil claimed that the incident has instilled so much fear that girls have stopped attending school.

A Congress leader said outside the Vidhan Bhawan building that opposition may bring a no-trust motion against Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagade, if he does not allow discussion on the Kopardi gangrape in the House.

Police have been stationed in Kopardi to ease tension, after furious locals held a road blockade and other protests to demand the arrest of the rapists.

Anna Hazare Joins the Fray, Demands Capital Punishment

Social activist Anna Hazare sought death penalty for those accused on Tuesday.

“The case should be tried in a fast track court and the guilty should be hanged,” Hazare said in a statement issued in Mumbai.
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Caste Conflict

There are casteist undertones to the unfortunate incident. The minor girl belonged to the dominant Maratha community, while the accused are all Dalit. The district of Ahmednagar, which was earlier known for the temple town of Shirdi, has now emerged as a flashpoint for Maratha-Dalit violence. It has been in the news for several Dalit killings.

In 2013, three Dalit men were murdered in a case of honour killing and their hands and legs were cut and thrown away. In 2014, a Dalit family was savagely murdered and their mutilated body parts were discarded on a farm. In 2015, a Dalit man was beaten to death for having a ringtone in praise of Dr Ambedkar.

Now all organisations of the wealthy and powerful Maratha community have come together to demand justice for the girl. A protest march took place in the village of Kopardi, where the incident took place, while more protests are scheduled for later.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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