Netflix’s ‘Murder in a Courtroom’: The story of criminal Akku Yadav and the women of Kasturba Nagar

In the real-life 2004 incident that inspired the series, people in a Nagpur slum – mostly Dalit women – killed a criminal in the courtroom.

A group of women wielding cleavers and knives, stuffing chilli powder in a napkin and storming a Nagpur court to kill a dreaded criminal before the judiciary can give a judgment. This is a scene from Netflix’s new Indian Predator: Murder in a Courtroom docuseries, which draws inspiration from a real-life incident.
Directed by Marathi director Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, it focuses on women residing in the Dalit basti or slum of Kasturba Nagar in Nagpur, Maharashtra, who decided to seek revenge on their own terms by killing criminal Akku Yadav in the courtroom.

Who was Akku Yadav?

Bharat alias Akku Kalicharan Yadav was a gangster in Nagpur during the 1980s and 1990s. According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Report (CHRI) published in 2005, at the time of his death, Yadav had been charged in 26 criminal cases. He belonged to a family of milkmen, and a report in the Marathi newspaper Loksatta states that after his tryst with petty crimes, Yadav became involved in serious criminal activities in 1991, including gangrape, murder, armed robbery, housebreakings, criminal intimidation and extortion.

Yadav was arrested in 1999 and detained for a year under the Maharashtra Preventive Detention Law (Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords,  Bootleggers, Drug Offenders and Dangerous Persons Act, 1981). His detention order was quashed in 2000. In January 2004, he was banned from entering Nagpur City and Rural under the Bombay Police Act, 1951, though Yadav did not follow the order.

What led to the women of Kasturba Nagar rising up against Yadav?

One of the few educated people in the basti, Usha Narayane, was studying Hotel Management. She advised her neighbour Ratna to file a police complaint against Yadav as he was harassing her for money, as mentioned in the book ‘Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide’, reported BBC Marathi.

This angered the gangster. According to the CHRI report, Yadav reached her house with 40 accomplices on the night of July 27 and threatened to mutilate her with acid and rape her. He only left when she threatened to blow up the entire place with a gas cylinder.

Along with her brother-in-law Vilas Bhande, a lawyer, Usha called a press conference on August 4, 2004, to make Yadav’s atrocities known. Two days later, Bhande organised a mass complaint to the police signed by 96 residents, saying how despite being ordered to move away from the area over seven months prior, Yadav had remained in the basti.

He said Yadav continued to actively commit criminal activities, even under police watch. The same day, the people of the basti attacked Yadav’s house. On August 7, 2004, Yadav was in police custody. It is believed by some that he surrendered for protection from the angry public, trusting his connections to get him out on bail once things cooled down.

What happened in the courtroom?

Yadav was presented in the Nagpur court on August 10 but attempts to attack him were foiled. On August 13, however, he was accompanied by only two police constables when he was brought in from the north verandah of the court campus and the iron gates there were bolted.

A group of around 200 to 500 people, based on various estimates, broke the wooden door on the other side and entered the courthouse, carrying stones, machetes, glass bottles and other weapons. Yadav was attacked and he died as a result, with the post-mortem revealing 74 injuries on his body.

And then?

Initially, five women were picked up from Kasturba Nagar by the police and later 21 people, including elderly women, were arrested by the Jaripatka police for different crimes – murder, rioting, etc.

The CHRI report states that a senior official, refusing to be identified, said, “You know how these things happen. We arrest someone to pacify the people. We would suspend a person or two and reinstate them after a month or so after things cool down.”

This invited backlash and the case was handed over to the Crime Investigation Department and the chargesheet was presented in court on December 7, 2004. Three people died during this period, and the remaining 18 people were acquitted in 2014.

The police, however, refused to make statements on record or reveal any documents including the FIR or the post-mortem report, believing that one Eknath Chavan of a rival gang, who had fallen out with Yadav, manipulated the women into providing them with the cover to kill Yadav. They believed women were present in the court to shield the rival gang members from the same basti – some of whom were also the relatives of these women.

On the motivation behind the women’s actions, Salian said, “Vilas Bhande told me that people in the basti did not sit on a ‘dharna’ (protest) even if they had no water/electricity for a day, as they risked losing a day’s wage. Why then would they assemble, if not out of sheer will and for a common cause?”

How did this incident reflect on the police?

According to the CHRI report, Yadav had been arrested 14 times before his death. Writer and independent journalist Jaydeep Hardikar, while talking to BBC Marathi, said “I will see this as a failure of the judicial system. Many studies were undertaken on the subject of what shapes a criminal. If someone had paid heed to complaints against him, maybe this could have been averted.”

He continued, “The complainants in this case also belonged to a group which has historically been exploited. So the police also chose to ignore it. This is not unique to Nagpur but plays out in all the major cities.”

Nagpur later witnessed many incidents of people taking justice into their own hands. Some of these cases include Sheikh Iqbal, Ashish Deshpande, and Vijay Waghdare, who were killed by mobs in a similar fashion.

How did the Kasturba Nagar residents react?

While the criminal was gone, the lives of the people were changed. Usha Narayane, while talking to Maharashtra Times in 2014, spoke about how with her name associated with the case she was still trying to put her life back on track and find a job in Nagpur. Rajesh Urkhude, another accused, had shifted to another town and had to take leaves to travel and attend court hearings.

“Almost everyone in Kasturba Nagar still has a memory of Akku…and his extended family members live in the other part of the ‘basti’. They have come to peace but the memories are still alive. Akku is long gone but what he represents remains,” said Salian.

According to a report on the incident, Yadav had been arrested 14 times before his death. He was believed to be involved frequently in the harassment of people, particularly women, in a Nagpur slum. (Photo via
Real nameBharat Kalicharan Yadav
ProfessionSerial Criminal
Height (approx.)in centimeters– 168 cm
in meters– 1.68 m
in feet & inches– 5’ 6”
Date of BirthYear, 1972
BirthplaceNagpur, Maharashtra
Date of Death13 August 2004
Place of DeathNagpur District Court in Vidarbha, Maharashtra
Age (at the time of death)32 Years
Death CauseMob Lynching 
HometownNagpur, Maharashtra
Educational QualificationUp to class 7 (as per Netflix series ‘Indian Predator: Murder In A Courtroom)
Marital Status (at the time of death)Unmarried
ParentsFather- Kalicharan Yadav (milkman)
Mother- Name Not Known

Input : Indian Express

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