Pune: The hanging of as many as four convicts on death row in one day has happened only once in the country after Independence — in Pune on October 25, 1983. Rajendra Jakkal, Dilip Sutar, Shantaram Jagtap and Munawar Shah — the first three from Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya in the city and Shah a friend of theirs studying in a commerce college — were hanged at the Yerawada central jail for the murder of 10 people in the mid-1970s.
The impending execution of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya case would be the second instance of as many hangings on the same day in one case.
The Pune gang killed three members of the Joshi family at their Vijaynagar colony home and five members of the Abhyankar family at their bungalow on Bhandarkar road. They also killed two youths in separate incidents.
The killings, which came to be known as the Joshi-Abhyankar serial murders, remain one of the most intriguing sagas in the annals of crime in Pune, then a sleepy pensioners paradise.
Old-timer Punekars recall the murders as much for the heinous manner in which they were committed as also for the deep panic, fear and helplessness that had gripped them in those days.
“People would simply desert the streets after 6 pm,” recalls former assistant commissioner of police Balkrishna Agashe. “Except for policemen blowing their whistles and the sound of patrolling boots, a cloak of silence would hang over the city.”
“Like most Punekars, we used to be tense every new moon night as all the murders were committed on those days,” recalls Subhash Pawar, who used to teach advertising and graphic design at the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya.
“The four were well-behaved and polite. We never suspected that they had criminal tendencies. We were shocked to read in the newspapers about their involvement,” recalls Pawar.
“There were times when people would keep night-long vigils. On days like new moon nights, scared citizens would keep calling the police control room seeking reassurance,” said another old-timer.
The killing of noted Sanskrit scholar Kashinath Shastri Abhyankar, then 88, and four others at his bungalow had come as a shock to Pandit Vasant Gadgil. The 90-year-old Gadgil told TOI, “The entire state was angry over the murders. Shastri was my guru. I felt helpless and realised no one was truly safe.”
The killings had left Pune police baffled for over a year and had put their investigative skills to the test. Then police chief VV Chaubal had constituted a special team under assistant commissioner of police Madhusudhan Hulyalkar and inspector Manikrao Damame, both now deceased.
As the police probe later revealed,the gang employed a peculiar modus operandi of stripping some of their victims naked and using a nylon rope with a particular knot to strangle them to death.
THE 10 MURDERS
January 15, 1976: Four commercial art students and their friend from another college, all with a penchant for the good life, committed their first big crime by kidnapping Prakash Hegde, whose father ran Hotel Vishwa, for ransom. They gagged and strangled Prakash with a nylon rope, put the body in a barrel and dumped it in the Peshwe Park lake.
October 31, 1976: The gang of five struck at the house of Achyut Joshi in Vijaynagar colony, killing him, his wife Usha and son Anand. They fled with valuables from the house Read More – Source