Maharashtra offers rehabilitation to Khairlanji case witnesses

May 10th, 2008 - 10:25 pm ICT by admin  

Nagpur, May 10 (IANS) In an unprecedented action, the Maharashtra government has offered a tidy rehabilitation package to two prosecution witnesses in the sensational Khairlanji Dalit massacre case wherein four members of a family were brutally murdered by a mob of upper caste people. The package that includes a government job, a house in Khairlanji in Bhandara district where the massacre took place in September 2006, and agricultural land to each of the two witnesses namely Mukesh Pusam and Suresh Khandate, was recommended by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that investigated the case.

Four members of the family of a Dalit farmer Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange - his wife Rekha, young daughter Priyanka and two sons Dilip and Roshan - were savagely beaten to death by a mob of upper caste Hindus in the twilight hours of Sep 29, 2006 over a long standing feud stemming from a land dispute.

Following a public outcry over the massacre, the state government transferred the case, first to the state criminal investigation department and then to the CBI. It also entrusted the trial to a fast-track court and offered Bhiyyalal, the lone survivor of the Bhotmane family, a house, farmland and a government job.

Describing the package as a laudable experiment aimed at instilling a sense of security among witnesses who could be vulnerable to intimidation by the accused, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told reporters that though unprecedented in Indian judicial system, such measures do exist in European countries.

Contesting the view, defence lawyer Neeraj Khandewale told IANS that while provision of police protection to the witnesses was understandable, the package amounts to bribing and corruption.

“The two witnesses have already been provided with police protection; the package offer defies logic and cannot but be interpreted as bribe,” Khandewale said, pointing out that the witnesses have demanded Rs.100,0000 each in lieu of the package.

Taking over investigation of the case in December 2006, the CBI filed charges against 11 of the 47 accused listed by the police and put up 36 of the 75 witnesses the police could marshal.

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