Rs 20L rehab plan for Khairlanji witnesses
10 May 2008, 0309 hrs IST by Prafulla Marpakwar ,TNN

MUMBAI: In the first case of its kind in Indian judicial history, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has drafted an ambitious rehabilitation plan for the main witnesses in the Khairlanji dalit murder case, which rocked the state in November 2006.

The CBI has proposed to the state government that the two main witnesses should be given a house in Khairlanji village in Bhandara district, jobs in the state government and agriculture land. The witnesses however had rejected the proposal and asked for Rs 10 lakh each. According to reports, their plea has been accepted by the state government.

On November 29, 2006, all four family members of Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, a poor dalit, were brutally murdered by local residents. Following the murders, there was widespread violence across the state, prompting not only chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh but even Congress president Sonia Gandhi to step in. Subsequently, following the allegation that there was no progress being made in the case, Deshmukh entrusted the probe to the CBI. There are two main witnesses and a total of 11 accused.

Since there were reports that the CBI had submitted an action plan for the rehabilitation of the main witnesses—Mukesh Pusam and Suresh Khandate — criminal lawyer Neeraj Khandewale, counsel for six of the accused, moved the Bhandara district collector, superintendent of police and local tehsildar under the Right to Information Act. Khandewale asked for the entire correspondence the CBI had with the chief secretary, collector and SP on the rehabilitation plan. “Now I have all the information on rehabilitation. It has been proposed to give the witnesses a house, job and agriculture land in village Khairlanji,'' Khandewale told TOI on Friday.

Significantly, Khandewale has taken strong objection to the rehabilitation plan, saying it was “a new kind of corruption''. “It's blatantly illegal. If the CBI is so concerned, it should provide them adequate protection, but not money,'' Khandewale said.

Ujwal Nikam, counsel for the CBI and the state in the Khairlanji case, confirmed the rehab plan but dismissed Khandewale's allegations as baseless.