DIVYA TRIVEDI, The Hindu
“They brought the body to the morgue and asked the women to take a look. Her body was lying sprawled on the stretcher and her neck seemed broken. Her arm was twisted inwards at the wrist as if by force. Her feet seemed to have been tied with a strong rope and her salwar was drenched in blood. There were round burn marks around her neck and chest where the skin had turned white as if cigarette or bidi had been stubbed out on it. Blood was also flowing from scratch marks at her chest and legs. Only her face was clean and untouched.”
This is how the women of Baniyakheda in district Jind, Haryana, who saw the body of the 20-year-old Dalit girl, described its state to The Hindu.
Meanwhile, the authorities have given out contradictory statements that her death was due to suicide, poisoning and mosquito bites.
The story of her alleged abduction, rape and murder is playing out like a strange and dark tragedy for her family.
‘Alleged’ because almost a week after her mutilated body was found thrown next to an isolated canal near secluded fields in Jind, there is no news on the perpetrators of the crime.
According to a fact finding team that visited Jind on Thursday, there is no attempt being made by the local police to find or punish the perpetrators.
“The local administration and police want to hush up the case,” says a member of the fact finding team.
While the first information report filed in the matter mentions sections 376 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, indicating rape and murder, a local newspaper quoted the Superintendent of Police, Mr Balwant Singh Rana as saying that the girl seemed to have committed suicide. Mr Rana later said that he could easily have been misquoted.
The villagers, most of them from backward castes and scheduled castes, have united over the issue. They have formed a committee and are holding onto the body of the girl, camping in the Civil Hospital of Jind, demanding justice.
“It is the sixth day and they have not yet cremated the body. They know that it is the only thing they have. Once they cremate the body, no one will heed their cries of justice,” says Rajat Kansal, advocate. District officials and others are pressurising the committee to cremate the body.
Going by the villagers’ accounts, the 20-year-old girl, daughter of a poor Dalit mason, was frail and simple and only wanted to study. She rarely went out. Last Saturday, she left home at 11am to appear for a compartment exam in Junior Basic Training course at the Jind district headquarters. She took a local vehicle to reach the bus stop, from where she boarded a bus to Jind. Another woman from the village, who was travelling to Jind on the same bus, saw the girl get off at the Jind bus stop. From there, she would have to take an auto-rickshaw to reach the school for the exam. She never reached the school and later somebody called to say they had found a polythene bag containing her papers lying near a canal. The next morning, her body was found thrown at an isolated spot along the canal close to secluded fields in Jind.
The family accompanied by villagers and relatives reached the hospital where the women were shocked to see the condition of the body. They carried it out to the bus stop and sat on a dharna. Before long, a huge police contingent arrived and started lathi-charging the protestors including women and family members. “A policeman kicked the dead body and slapped the father on the head saying go away, you won’t get anything here,” a villager present at the spot said. The act of alleged kicking was captured by a local television channel and flashed repeatedly before being taken off air. The Deputy Commissioner of Police Jind, Mr Rajiv Ratan, when asked about the incident said, “How do you know? Were you present there?”
After two post mortems, one in the civil hospital and the other in Rohtak PGIMS, human rights activists and organisations pushed for a third one at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the report of which has been submitted to the police in Jind but not handed over to the family yet. Moreover, the SP and DC of Jind came out with a statement saying it was death by poisoning. The doctor at AIIMS, Mr Sudhir Gupta, denied it, without revealing further information.
Meanwhile, a delegation including Vimal Thorat, Convenor-All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, Vijay Bauddh, Founder Hans Do India and other activists from Delhi and Haryana visited Ms Selja Kumari, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment and PL Punia, Chairman, National SC Commission. The Minister and Chairman promised to take action. A candle light vigil is being held in Jantar Mantar on Saturday to protest the “gross apathy and negligence in the investigation of rape and murder.”
(The writer accompanied the fact finding team to Jind)