After delving into the gritty details of the cases involving “The Butcher of Delhi” and “The Diary of a Serial Killer”, a new season of the Netflix's Indian true-crime series Indian Predator is set to debut this Friday. Subtitled “Murder in a Courtroom”, this new season would focus on the apparent lynching of serial rapist, killer, and extortionist Akku Yadav in a Nagpur district court.
Trigger warning: Mentions of graphic violence and sexual harassment.
Who was Akku Yadav? Born as Bharat Kalicharan in the early 1970s, Akku Yadav grew up around the Kasturba Nagar slum that lay in the outskirts of Nagpur. According to police reports, the slum not only housed minor criminals but also two rival gangs.
“A child of the neighborhood, Akku had graduated from milkman's son to local menace.” Swati Mehta writes in her true crime book Killing Justice: Vigilantism in Nagpur.
As he grew up, he soon set out to rise within the ranks of the local criminal empire. His own gang of thugs sought out to extort people in the slum, nabbing their bikes, mobile phones, homes; basically anything and everything in the vicinity. While Yadav’s gang relied on extortion as their primary source of income, kidnapping was also a common tactic and eventually rape to silence or intimidate victims.
According to Mehta’s book, Yadav’s earliest known crime itself was a gang rape in 1991. With over three murders and 40 rapes, there is a legend among the slum-dwellers that Yadav might have sexually assaulted a woman in nearly every other house.
When it comes to an age demographic, he didn’t have a pattern with his victims being middle-aged women and even a 10-year-old girl. However, there seems to be a casteist undertone behind his sexual crimes as many of the victims were Dalits.
Yadav’s relationship with the police: In his lifetime, Yadav had been arrested nearly 14 times by the Nagpur Police. Mehta adds that he was even detained in 1999 for a year under the Maharashtra state’s preventive detention law: Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords, Boot-leggers, Drug Offenders and Dangerous Persons Act 1981.
However, Yadav was in the local police’s good books often offering bribes and alcohol to the khaki-uniformed personnel. This explains why despite 14 arrests and allegations of gruesome crimes, he wasn’t easily imprisoned. Multiple testimonies by victims and affected families have come out after his death that shed light on how the police supported his reign of terror.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn bring out a shocking instance in their 2009 book Half A Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide when a woman reported a gang-rape by Yadav and his associates, the police ended up gang-raping the woman herself. Similarly, Raekha Prasad’s 2005 news report for The Guardian states how when a 22-year-old woman reported a similar case, the police accused her of having an affair with Yadav and dismissed her pleas.
Not only were people afraid to report his crimes anymore but police protection too played a major role in his unstoppable wave of rapes and murders.
Usha Narayane sparks off a revolution: The locals of Kasturba Nagar finally stood up against the barbaric criminal, a revolt that was started by Usha Narayane. After Yadav’s gang vandalised the house of one Ratna Dungiri and threatened to kill her family, her friend Usha told her to talk to the authorities.
After seeing local Usha Narayane make a defiant stance against serial rapist Akku Yadav, the people of the Kasturba Nagar slum had decided enough was enough and all worked together to rid their neighborhood of him. Link in our bio! pic.twitter.com/40Ko1fpWXV— Spooky Sh*t (@spookyshit_pod) November 19, 2021
But with Ratna too scared to open her mouth, Usha went to file a complaint herself. When the gang got word of this, Yadav and 40 of his men surrounded Usha’s house; a scene described in great detail in Kristof and WuDunn’s aforementioned book. Gripping a bottle of acid, Yadav asked her to open the door and withdraw her complaint or he would burn her face.
“You can't imagine what we'll do to you!” Yadav shouted but Usha didn’t budge.
She instead turned on the gas cylinder and lit a matchstick, threatening to blow herself along with the house if Yadav’s men dared to break down the door. Yadav grew alert and called off the home invasion.
That matchstick however sparked off an unprecedented public revolution in the slum. Enraged citizens armed themselves with stones and sticks and began attacking Yadav’s associates whenever they got the chances with the criminals eventually fleeing the slum and abandoning their boss.
On August 6, 2004, they even ended up burning Yadav’s own house. With nowhere else to go, he resorted to his friends in the law and sought police protection. Just a day later, the police arrested him for the ulterior motive of saving his life.
What went down in the courtroom? But the women of Kasturba Nagar wouldn’t let them go this easily. As he was being taken to the local district court on August 8, a group even attempted to attack him. While Yadav survived, he had an appointment with death five days later.
With a bail hearing on August 13, hordes of people including over 200 women (although other accounts estimate the number to be 400) walked into the courtroom no 7 of the Nagpur District Court in Vidarbha. Now, the truth of what really went down can differ between witnesses but the reported conclusion was Yadav’s brutal death.
Most of the attendees were well aware of how easy it would be for Yadav to secure a bail. So, in one of India’s most brutal documented cases of vigilantism, the women stabbed Yadav to death with vegetable knives. Chilli powder was also sprayed in the eyes of the notorious killer as well as the policemen surrounding him. As the stabbing commenced, Yadav’s penis was also hacked off. With most of the policemen fleeing the developing crime scene, Yadav had no one to fall back on anymore. The 32-year-old succumbed to his wounds within 15 minutes.
Who really killed Akku Yadav? The group of women apparently didn’t lay out a concrete plan to carry out Yadav’s assassination but the intention of inflicting violence on him in his hearing spread through word of mouth with obviously many interested in joining in.
However, Maharashtra’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) had a different take on the killing with their theory being that four men with sharp objects carried out the lynching with the women claiming responsibility to protect him. While some men were also involved in the killing, the large share of women claim responsibility to this day and refute the police version of events.
What happened to the accused murderers? Celebrations followed in the slum after his death. Even though five women (including Usha Narayane) were arrested immediately, the slum-dwellers coordinated mass protests outside police stations and courthouses for their bail. Narayane was eventually acquitted of all charges in 2012.
21 other people were eventually arrested but released due to lack of evidence. By 2014, everyone accused was released.
Over a decade since his death, judges noted how it was not possible to impose any strict charges on any of the accused chiefly due to lack of reliable witness accounts along with unreliable police statements. Further, Yadav's autopsy report didn’t help the slain either as it showed alcohol in his system proving that he had been receiving preferential treatment in custody.
Justice Bhau Vahane, a former High Court judge, publicly defended the lynching citing inaction from the police being a justifiable ground to “finish Akku”.