How a mom won fight for justice after 15 yrs

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Nov 2017 09:07:12


By Dheeraj Fartode,

Undeterred by threats, pressure from relatives, Vijaya Shirke persisted with legal tussle against the killers of her son Swapnil alias Pintu Shirke and ensured lifer for them

Swapnil alias Pintu Shirke was stabbed to death on the sixth floor of Nyay Mandir building in District Court premises in the year 2002, when he was being produced in the court for final hearing in a firing case. An engineering passout from Ramdeobaba College of Engineering, Swapnil was related to royal Bhosle family of the city, the erstwhile rulers of Nagpur. The family had 21 acres of land near Chhota Tajbag

THE love of a mother can move mountains. But for Vijaya Dilipsingh Shirke the task ahead was much tougher. She was taking on the mountain of a corrupt system, enduring threats to life, and fighting the might of muscle power. Never did she flinch even once, and after a long-drawn legal battle of 15 years ensured that the killers of her son did not go unpunished. After all, it was a resolute mother’s promise to her slain son.

On October 31, 2017 the mother was full of anxiety waiting for a word about the outcome of hearing in the Apex Court. The decision would have a bearing on the Shirkes’ years of struggle to get justice for their slain son Swapnil alias Pintu Shirke. When the learned Apex Court judges threw out challenge of main culprits, including prime plotter Vijay Mate, and upheld life sentence handed out by the High Court, the 15-year-long fight of Vijaya Shirke had finally reached its logical conclusion.

“The promise made to Swapnil when his body was brought to house kept me focussed on my goal,” Vijaya opened up to ‘The Hitavada’.
Fifteen years is a long period. She was up against formidable enemies. The gangsters were well connected and financially sound. But the 64-year-old never gave up.

In fact, the City Police owe a sense of gratitude to this devout mother as her single-minded determination has ensured that notorious criminals are sent behind bars for their life. These include the notorious goon Raju Bhadre. Pintu was murdered in Nyay Mandir campus in 2002.

As this scribe touched the topic and her years of struggle, Vijaya was overcome with emotions. “More than the loss of Swapnil, for the family comprising the mother-father and two daughters and Swapnil’s widow and daughter, what troubled me more is that the corrupt system labelled an innocent youth as criminal,” she started narrating the long story of her retribution.

“We had approached every available forum to point out that Pintu was framed as he dared the goons who were out to gobble up their ancestral land. But none came to help,” Vijaya recalled. Even on the fateful day when Pintu was produced in court, Vijaya had frantically pleaded for help with senior bosses of Nagpur City Police. Sadly, they continued to doubt her claims. Her worst fears soon came true when Pintu was stabbed to death in the corridors of justice, on the sixth floor of Nyay Mandir building.

“This very system is responsible for the murder of my son,” her eyes welled up. “My daughters were the pillars of strength. They stood with their mother’s pledge to seek justice and see to it that the killers of their brother did not go unpunished,” she added.
Vijaya said, she did not miss even one hearing and made it a point to note down salient points, especially queries of defence side and Judges so that it could be later updated during briefing with lawyers.

Narrating her judicial experience, she said the sailing was not smooth as her formidable opponents tried every trick in the book to prevent her from pursuing the case. “We were hounded with phone calls. We also faced pressure from relatives. None of them supported us. Instead, they tried to coax us into submitting to our enemies. But I was determined and also compelled by the pledge taken at the funeral of my son,” said the proud mother, recalling finer details from the pages of memory.

The period was very tough for the mother and her daughters. It was a lonely battle against the gangsters. But her daughter kept her company. “She used to come down at the time of hearings to stand by my side. Never did it cross my mind that I should drop all these things and let bygones be bygones. The relatives continued to be negative asking whether all these things would bring back Swapnil. It was very hard time for the family. We always feared for our safety. But God was with us,” said Vijaya, who pursued meditation to calm her restless mind and continue with her fight.

In the meantime, the defiant mother updated herself with laws and even used to brief the lawyers during court sessions when they stumbled at any point. Her single-minded pursuit, and standing-up against the gangsters and corrupt system ultimately fetched her the desired results. “All these 15 years, I was at war with myself. Ultimately, God sided with us,” the tears of contentment said it all.
This was victory of a mother, her belief, courage and truth.

Pintu fought the land mafia
For Vijaya, her son Swapnil alias Pintu was her world. But her world was destroyed by notorious goons who wanted to usurp the ancestral land of Bhosle that came by way of succession to Shirkes. Using money power and political contacts, the goons in the city had defamed her son as a criminal by implicating him in false criminal cases.
Giving details of the case Vijaya said that convict Vijay Mate’s grandfather was a servant of Raje Raghuji Bhosle and was living in a room in Chhota Tajbag. The room was constructed by Raje Raghuji for servants.

Pintu had completed his engineering degree and the family was pestering him to look for a job. But he was more interested in starting his own business. Pintu was also reluctant to move out of city. His aim was to provide jobs to unemployed youths in the region. He banked upon the family’s land assets to raise funds for the business. Pintu and his uncle Ranjit Shirke decided to develop a scheme on 21 acres of land in March 2001 and formed Bhagyashri Co-operative Society.

“Vijay Mate had encroached upon the area admeasuring 7,000 sq ft in front of his room and also constructed a compound wall. The Shirkes tried to settle the matter amicably but Mate threatened Swapnil and asked him to stay away from developing the ancestral land. Mate, who was sitting corporator then and a rising star in city’s political circle, boasted of his contacts with big politicians and tried to dictate terms to Pintu. But Pintu was not the one to be cowed down. Little did he realise that he was going to be pitted against who’s who of the crime underworld of the city,” Vijaya said.

Undeterred by threats, Swapnil went ahead with developing the ancestral land that did not go down well with Mate. He then used his clout to implicate the royal scion in false cases. “The system, too, played ball with Mate, given his political clout, and failed to do justice to us,” recalled Vijaya.

Along with Pintu, his cousins and friends were also implicated in false cases including one about attempt on life of Mate (he was fired upon near his house), and the murder of Sanjay Gaikwad.

“In both the cases, prosecution failed to provide any conclusive evidence and Pintu and his associates were acquitted. But it was too late,” she added.

Callous attitude of City Police machinery

Vijaya did not mince words while describing the way City Police machinery functioned. Before the incident in Nyay Mandir, Pintu was fired upon near his house in Khamla, but police disbelieved the claims despite the fact that bullet shells were later recovered near the crime spot.
“My son was stabbed by the goons more than 50 times. I used to slash my wrist with a kitchen knife just to experience the pain he suffered,” a lump in the throat stopped Vijaya.

Immediately after Vijaya saw the body of Swapnil at hospital, she went to the office of the then Commissioner of Police (CP) K K Kashyap and confronted him. “Had you acted swiftly, my son’s life would have been saved,” she had told the top cop.

Vijaya alleged that Mate’s political bosses had managed the police machinery to act on his directions and no precautions were taken even after goons had fired shots at him in Rana Pratap Nagar.

When Swapnil was being produced in the court for final hearing in a firing case in Nyay Mandir building, only one constable was with him.

Prior to the incident, Vijaya had also met the then State Home Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and explained the conspiracy hatched by the accused to target Swapnil. Bhujbal had asked the then City Police officers to inquire, but the cops again dismissed her apprehensions as figment of imagination and gave clean chit to Mate, she claimed.

Ups and Downs during MCOCA trial

When trial in the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) case against the gangsters began, Vijaya had managed to rope in a renowned public prosecutor using her maternal contacts. But her experience with the PP was not very positive as she claimed that the lawyer remained absent on most of the dates. Perhaps given his busy schedule, the PP could not give full focus on MCOCA cases. As a result all the accused got acquitted by MCOCA court, which Vijaya said, was a major setback for her.

At the same time, she also experienced the good side of lawyers, when she met Adv Jyoti Wajani and Adv Bharati Dangre. “Both these public prosecutors did a great job and ensured conviction of the accused,” Vijaya stated.

‘False’ reporting by media

Vijaya is also livid at a section of media over ‘false reporting’. She wondered whether a section of mediapersons was reporting on the side of the accused Vijay Mate. No journalist was interested in research and going through the documents to report the truth, she alleged.

“I had addressed a press conference and distributed a document titled ‘Maa Ki Fariyaad’ (Plea for Justice of a Mother) among the journalists. The documents were used by the lawyers of the accused in the court... It means that some journalists had provided those documents to the defence lawyer,” she recalled.

“Isn’t this against the ethics of journalism,” she asked.
‘God does exist’ Vijaya’s life was already full of agony and sorrow since the day her son was murdered. One day she came in contact with Brahmakumaris and surrendered herself to God Shiva.

“My inner strength was revived after meditation and I experienced the blessings of God. He was always with me during the painful journey of last 15 years. I knew that my son was not a criminal, he was falsely implicated for the sake of land that rightly belonged to us. Believe me, when a mother calls God, He comes to help,” she said.

Vijaya’s fight, Nagpur’s gain

Nagpur will feel more secured as all the dreaded goons will remain in the jail for their lifetime only because of pain borne by a mother.

A division bench of the Apex Court consisting of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goyal and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit had dismissed the appeal filed by convicts last week and maintained the Sessions Court order convicting all the seven accused including ex-corporator of Congress party Vijay Krishnarao Mate, Raju Bhadre, Kiran Umrao Kaithe, Dinesh Gaiki, Umesh Dahake, Ritesh Gawande, and Kamlesh Nimbarte.