Mis­taken for Sikhs, truck driver and cleaner were burnt to death in 1984

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Vaib­hav.Gan­japure @times­group.com

The anti-Sikh ri­ots af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Indira Gandhi was as­sas­si­nated in 1984 left a trail of death and dev­as­ta­tion in the north­ern parts of the coun­try, some rip­ples from which reached Ma­ha­rash­tra. Four per­sons were burned to death in Akola and Ahmed­na­gar, two in a case of mis­taken iden­tity, and all that their fam­i­lies get to­day is Rs 2,500 ev­ery month from the state gov­ern­ment.

Records say Tikaram Satav, a truck driver, and Dinkar Dam­bre, the cleaner, were burnt alive by a mob of stu­dents from Pan­jabrao Desh­mukh Kr­ishi Vidyapeeth near the col­lege on Novem­ber 3, 1984, who mis­took them for Sikhs. None was ever con­victed.

Satav and Dam­bre were re­turn­ing home in their truck (MHS 2094) when they were at­tacked. Out­side the PDKV cam­pus, they ran into a mob of stu­dents, who stayed in the hos­tel. They were asked to stop, but, sens­ing trou­ble, the duo ac­cel­er­ated. The ri­ot­ers threw acid and petrol bombs on the truck which caught fire. The stu­dents sur­rounded the ve­hi­cle which had stopped and threw more acid and petrol bombs in­side the cabin even as Satav and Dam­bre pleaded that they were not Sikhs. A po­lice van pass­ing by res­cued the duo and ad­mit­ted them to hospi­tal with nearly 90% burns.

Dam­bre’s death brought the world crash­ing around his widow,Satyab­hama, who was just 18 then. She al­ready had two kids — Dhyan­deo and Anita — hav­ing mar­ried twothree years ear­lier. “My brother-in-law took me to hospi­tal. By the time I reached, my hus­band had ex­pired. The nurses told me he had sig­nalled with his hands that he had two kids and re­quested that they be taken care of,” the 66-year-old Satyab­hama re­counted with moist eyes af­ter TOI traced her to the non­de­script ham­let of Naigaon in Nan­dura town of Buld­hana dis­trict.

Satyab­hama has been re­ceiv­ing an an­nual pen­sion of Rs 30,000 from the Ma­ha­rash­tra gov­ern­ment for the last four years. Satav’s wife Kas­turi too used to get the pen­sion till her death last year. Satav’s son Vas­anta was 18 at the time of the crime. “We had 20 acres at that time on Malka­pur Road. His death shook our en­tire fam­ily; my younger brother died due to ill­ness. I miss my fa­ther even now,” says Vas­anta, who stays at Khu­dan­pur, in Nan­dura, with his fam­ily.

Ini­tially, vil­lagers helped out Satyab­hama. They used to pro­vide food­grain and clothes, and lodged protests to get Dhyan­deo com­pen­sa­tion for the fam­ily. “I started do­ing me­nial labour jobs at Rs 2 per day but it was very tough,” says Satyab­hama. For two decades, she had no clue about be­ing el­i­gi­ble for com­pen­sa­tion. Later, some Sikh fam­i­lies in the area told her and helped with pre­par­ing her case.

“About 10 years ago, we re­ceived Rs 20,000 on one oc­ca­sion. Then it was stopped for rea­sons we are not aware of. It’s only for the last four years that we are get­ting a Rs 30,000 cheque ev­ery year reg­u­larly. The amount is very mea­gre,” says her hand­i­capped son Dhyan­deo. “I utilised the pen­sion for the ed­u­ca­tion of my three grand­chil­dren. The el­dest daugh­ter is do­ing her grad­u­a­tion in arts, while two boys are in school,” says Satyab­hama with a smile.

The per­pe­tra­tors of the tragedy were ac­quit­ted due to lack of con­crete ev­i­dence and eye­wit­nesses turn­ing hos­tile, but Satyab­hama says they were handed po­etic jus­tice. “The per­son who ac­tu­ally killed my hus­band and Satav also met the same fate. He was killed in a ghastly mishap on the same stretch of road near PDKV. He was the son of a for­mer MLA. He was ac­quit­ted by the court then,” she said.

Be­sides Dam­bre and Satav’s fam­i­lies, two more from Ahmed­na­gar were re­ceiv­ing the com­pen­sa­tion — Su­grabi Sayyad, wife of Pi­ran Hasan Sayyad, and Dar­shan Kaur, wife of Sat­pals­ing Ba­jwa.

It’s only for the last four years that we are get­ting a Rs 30,000 cheque ev­ery year reg­u­larly. The amount too is very mea­gre

Ran­jit Desh­mukh

Cleaner Dinkar Damre’s wife Satyab­hama in her house and (R) driver Tikaram Satav’s fam­ily

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