Sole survivor of Khairlanji Dalit family carnage Bhotmange dead

Nagpur, Jan 20 (IANS) Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, the sole survivor in the Dalit family carnage at Khairlanji village in Bhandara district of the state, died following a massive heart attack here on Friday.

Not keeping well since some time, Bhotmange was on duty at the Babasaheb Ambedkar Hostel in Bhandara in the afternoon when he complained of chest pain and was rushed to the nearby government hospital for treatment.

As his condition failed to improve, the 62-year old Bhotmange was later shifted to Nagpur’s Shrikrishna Hospital where he was declared dead on admission.

The Khairlanji massacre, as the shocking incident became known globally, involved the brutal killing of four members of the Bhotmange family, the women paraded nude, sexually assaulted in public before being hacked to death.

The killings took place on September 29, 2006, allegedly to avenge a police complaint lodged by one of the family members over a land dispute against some dominant caste locals.

The victims were Bhotmange’s wife Surekha, 46, daughter Priyanka, 18, and sons Sudhir, 21 and Roshan, 23. He, however, managed to escape as he had gone out of the village for some work.

The carnage enraged Dalits across India with protests in different parts of the country and riots in Nagpur and Chandrapur shortly afterwards alleging it was a caste killing.

Following the widespread agitation by Dali organizations, the Maharshtra government handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in November 2006 which filed its chargesheet before Bhandara Court in December 2006.

The trial in the case started in May 2007 during which 36 witnesses including four eyewitnesses gave their evidences.

Later, Bhotmange said he had dedicated his life to bringing the perpetrators of his family’s massacre to justice,

In September 2008, Bhandara Sessions Court found eight persons guilty and acquitted three others, with Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam making a strong appeal for the death sentence to all those found guilty.

The convicts include — Gopal Sakru Binjewar, Sakru Binjewar, Shishupal Dhande, Ramu Dhande, Shatrughan Dhande, Vishwanath Dhande, Prabhakar Mandlekar and Jagdish Mandlekar. Those acquitted were Mahipal Dhande, Dharmpal Dhande and Purushottam Titirmare.

While convicting eight of the accused and acquitting three others for lack of evidence, the Bhandara Court absolved all the accused of charges under the Prevention of Atrocities under the SC/ST Act, 1989, and held that the incident was a case of mass murder which could in no way b e construed as ‘caste violence.’

The court also awarded the death penalty to six of the convicts and lifers for the remaining two.

In July 2010, the Bombay High Court commuted the death sentences to 25 years life imprisonments and confirmed the lifers awarded to the other two, resulting in fresh protests.

An appeal against the high court verdict is pending before the Supreme Court even as one of the convicts whose death sentence was commuted to life died two years ago.

Meanwhile, the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had announced an ex-gratia of Rs 600,000 plus job and a rehabilitation package for Bhotmange.