18 July, Ahmednagar
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam on Monday said he is prepared to fight the case of the gangrape and murder of a schoolgirl in Maharashtra that has been compared to the Nirbhaya case in its grisly brutality.
Nikam’s statement came after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured the Opposition parties that the government would ‘fast-track’ the case and appoint Nikam to fight it.
“It’s a horrific incident and I shall fight the case after studying the full investigations,” Nikam told reporters.
The incident happened on July 13 in Kopardi village of Ahmednagar district. The family of the 14-year-old girl found her badly mutilated, blood-splattered body under a tree in a field, sending shockwaves across the state.
The victim had been gang-raped, her teeth and arms were broken, flesh from all over her body had been torn off, her hair had been pulled out, and she had been strangulated to death.
The incident has sparked off a major political controversy in Maharashtra with the opposition, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, targeting the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government in the monsoon session of the assembly that started on Monday.
Hundreds of villagers staged a ‘rasta-roko’ agitation while an all-political party is scheduled later on Monday to demand justice for the victim and stringent action against the culprits of the heinous crime.
Superintendent of Police Saurabh Tripathi said three persons have been arrested and police teams are trying to track down others who may be involved.
Kopardi and surrounding villages have erupted in protests with daily agitations, stone-pelting incidents, a roadblock and a protest procession on Monday.
Activists of various parties and groups including Sambhaji Brigade, Maratha Seva Sangh and Jijao Brigade converged on Sunday on the village square, raised slogans against the government and demanded action against all the rapists and those who sheltered them.
The protesters booed Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar when he visited Kopardi village on Sunday and threw eggs at him.
“The incident is a clear reflection of the law and order situation. Why was there a delay of two days in arresting the accused,” demanded Leaders of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil (Assembly) and Dhananjay Munde (Council).
The Opposition boycotted Fadnavis’ customary session-eve tea party on Sunday evening and staged a noisy protest Monday morning at the start of the assembly session.
Bhumata Brigade President Trupti Desai visited the distraught family on Sunday and demanded the resignation of Fadnavis and guardian minister Ram Shinde.
Police officer Tripathi said they have arrested Jitendra alias Pappu B. Shinde, Nitin G. Bhailume, Santosh G. Bhaval and are on the lookout for at least two others who may be involved.
The accused were produced before a local court and remanded in police custody for seven days each.
He added that arrests were made within nine hours of the incident and said compensation of Rs 500,000 has been paid to the victim’s family under the state’s Manodhairya Scheme.