Kolhapur, the city best known for its chappals has a history rich in heritage, but if we go two decades back and take a stroll around the corners, death can be felt. In the late 80s, bodies of toddlers started to appear out of nowhere. The deceased were sometimes found in a mutilated state and hence unrecognizable. A common thread linking these murders was that the victims mostly belonged to poor families, who often spent their nights on the street. Furthermore, reports of children being kidnapped and their subsequent gruesome murders emerged from neighborhood cities like Pune, Kalyan, Nasik, and Thane. This mayhem, which struck terror in the heart of city dwellers, ended with the apprehension of Renuka Shinde, Seema Gavit and their mother, Anjana Gavit.

The Beginning…

Source: http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.in/2013/07/anjanabai-family-of-ogresses-india-1996.html

Anjana, their mother hailed from Nasik and ran with a truck driver to Pune, who eventually deserted her soon after Renuka was born. Then, she married a retired soldier after some years, and just like her previous husband, he deserted her after Seema’s birth just to marry another woman. The two half-sisters were trained by Anjana Gavit, a woman who took to pick-pocketing and petty thievery as a source of income, and acquired great skill in it. She used her daughters as baits to distract and get the sympathy of the crowd that would gather, if any of her victims raised an alarm or caught her red handed in the act.

Renuka married Kiran Shinde, who used to drive the getaway vehicle used for these kidnappings. Once while pickpocketing near a temple in Pune, Renuka was caught in the act. But by showing her child, she managed to turn the tide against her accuser. This helped her spawn an even better plan.

The Modus-operandi…







Courtesy: http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.in/2013/07/anjanabai-family-of-ogresses-india-1996.html

Any crowded arena with lot of distraction means foliage for pick-pocketers and snatchers to breed on. Hence Bus Terminus, Railway Station’s exit areas, and Cinema Hall’s precinct etc., were selected for the operation by the gang of ladies. This followed the search for a suitable toddler within the city. One would lift the child and run away, while the others would distract the relative, who is either accompanying, or keeping an eye on him/her. Renuka’s husband would drive the whole gang out. Then they would go to their pre-determined area of operation. Later, if they managed to make it out from there without any hindrance, they would take the child to a secluded area and kill him/her, and in any event of being apprehended by the crowd present there, one of them would throw the child on ground. The child’s appalling cry would distract the people present there. This would facilitate the escape of the one caught in the act, while the crowd would rush to help the other one with the toddler, thinking him/her to be her son/daughter. In this case to, the toddler would die at their hand.

The Investigation… 

In spite of hatching a brilliant plan and operating in numerous cities of Maharashtra with a style which can be distinctly associated to gangs involved in organized crimes, their apprehension was an enigmatic challenge to police.  Noted government lawyer, Ujjwal Nigam explains, “Since the victims were often toddlers from families with poor background, often they wouldn’t lodge a report with the local police.” In the year 1996, police arrested the sisters on charges of kidnapping the daughter born to Mohan Gavit, (one of the sister’s father) who had deserted their mother. They led the police to their mother. The police then took the matter as a case of ‘act of revenge’ and a single incident. Meanwhile, thirteen FIRs lodged regarding kidnapping and murder or toddlers under various police stations spread across Maharashtra since 1991, forced the government to handover the cases to CID for early apprehension of the guilty. Soon CID sensed a relation between the previous murders and the kidnapping and murder of Mohan Gavit’s daughter. They arrested and interrogated Kiran Shinde, who spilled the beans and turned approver. During the interrogation after their arrest, they revealed having kidnapped and subsequently killed more than forty-two kids, and using them for cover.

Kiran Shinde.
Courtesy: http://murderpedia.org/female.S/s/shinde-renuka-photos.htm

The Status Now…

The judicial battle was lengthy, but the judiciary at all level stood by the stand that they deserve capital punishment. The mother of the duo has expired in judicial custody, but in spite of the court’s order to execute them and presidents rejection of their mercy plea in August 2014, they have managed to avoid the gallows by filling a fresh petition in Bombay High Court citing ‘delay in execution’ as the excuse to get off death row. They have learnt to make use of the bureaucratic logjams that our judicial and administrative system is riddled with.

SOURCEIndia Legal Live, DNA India, Indian Express.
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