Mistaken for Sikhs, truck driver and cleaner were burnt to death in 1984
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
Cleaner Dinkar Damre’s wife Satyabhama in her house and (R) driver Tikaram Satav’s family