Kopardi Rape and Murder: A Case That Gave Rise to Maratha Stir in Maharashtra
Kopardi Rape and Murder Case (Photo Credits: PTI)

Mumbai, August 8: The rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl Maratha girl in Kopardi in Ahmednagar district in 2016, has given rise to one of the largest Maratha stir in Maharashtra. The gruesome incident triggered widespread protests from the Maratha community, who took out marches across the state. The first Maratha Kranti Morcha under the aegis of Sakal Maratha Samaj was held in Aurangabad on August 9, 2016, to protest against the rape incident. To mark two years today, the Maratha outfits have called for a state-wide bandh which would mostly be sit-ins by the community.

The victim, a 9th standard student, who belonged to the Maratha community, was found murdered after being raped on July 13, 2016 at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district. As per details by the Police, the accused had also inflicted injuries all over her body and broke her limbs before throttling her. The three culprits in the case - Jitendra Babulal Shinde, 26, Santosh Gorakh Bhawal, 30, and Nitin Gopinath Bhailume, 28 - were held guilty of rape, murder and conspiracy and were awarded death sentence by a session court in Ahmednagar.

The brutal incident had also rocked the Maharashtra Assembly during the Monsoon Session. After protests were held in the state, the state government had appointed noted criminal lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, who has appeared in several high-profile cases including the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, as the special public prosecutor in the case.  Reports inform that Nikam had told the court that four to five days before the incident, the accused had stopped the girl and tried to molest her and threatened her. Nikam further added saying that on the day of the incident, the accused were riding their motorcycles and keeping a watch on the girl.

On October 7, the Ahmednagar Police had filed the charge sheet running into over 350 pages before the court in which the trio was charged under IPC sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape) and relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The Maratha protesters demanded a death sentence for the accused in the Kopardi case, reservation to Maratha in jobs and education and amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 – popularly known as the Atrocities Act.

In 2017, the Maratha Outfits held a massive protest at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. Reports inform that the protesters held peaceful protests as there were no rallies across the city. The Maratha community constitutes approximately 30 per cent of Maharashtra's population. The stir started with a rally in Aurangabad and has now become a major concern for the state and central government.  Surprisingly, August 9 coincides with the anniversary of the Quit India movement spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi.