Dalit Human Rights Defender
HRDA and NDMJ jointly issued an urgent appeal to the National Human Rights Commission of India on September 29, 2020 regarding the inaction of Satara Police over complaints of physical assault and attempts to murder Mr. Sujit Nikalje and his family. Mr. Nikalje is a Dalit rights activist and lawyer practising in Satara district.
On September 6, 2020, when Mr. Nikalje and his family visited a waterfall, another group followed them and misbehaved with his wife. The group, comprising men the Maratha community, provoked Mr. Nikalje and his family with casteist abuses and intimidation, even as Mr. Nikalje pacified the group and left the spot. At around 4.30 PM, the same group stopped Mr. Nikalje’s vehicle. Armed with sticks and iron rods, they attacked Mr. Nikalje and his brother brutally with intent to murder. A crowd gathered after they cried for help, and one of the assailants named Mr. Kunal Gaikwad was nabbed and handed over to the police. Mr. Nikalje was admitted in the hospital, but no police personnel came to record his statement or file an FIR.
On September 7, Inspector Mr. Nitin Sawant called Mr. Nikalje and threatened to register a case for violating COVID-19 restrictions by visiting the waterfalls. Police also released Mr. Kunal Gaikwad. A case was registered only after a complaint to the SP, who transferred the case swiftly to the DSP; the assailants were booked under Sections 324, 354, 143, 147, 148 of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Atrocities Act.