Gaya murder case: Despite key arrest, locals sceptical of police's version of events; demand for CBI probe grows
This isn't the first time Bihar Police have drawn flak from the locals and media.
The victim's family and locals are skeptical of the theory offered by the police
Kauleshwari, a resident of Patwatoli, was produced in court on Tuesday
The victim went missing on 28 December
Patna: Anger is writ large on every face at Patwatoli in Gaya, around 100 kilometres south of the state capital Patna. The family of the 16-year-old whose mutilated body was found on 6 January are still crying out for justice. Police on Monday arrested a woman Kauleshwari Devi and claimed that the minor was killed in the house of Leela Patwa, the jailed friend of the victim’s father Turaj Prasad Patwa. Kauleshwari, who is in her 40s, was also paraded by police before the local media. Though Kauleshwari confessed to assisting Leela in the crime and narrated sequence of incident, the family of the victim and other locals are skeptical of the theory offered by the police.
“It was Friday (perhaps 4 January). I received a call from Leela. He asked me to come to his house late in the evening. When I reached there, I saw the victim. She was in a sexual relationship with Leela and often demanded money from him. Around midnight, the girl was offered some drink after which she fell unconscious. Sensing an opportunity, Leela took out a knife and slit her throat. The body was wrapped in a gunny bag and kept under the charpai (wooden bed). The body was in the room for two days. The body began smelling. Leela asked me to buy some fragrance from the local market and sprinkle it on the body. On the night of 6 January, the body was taken out of the room and dumped somewhere. I helped Leela take the body from the room. Some other associates of Leela were also present. I am not under any pressure. I am getting my statement recorded on my own. I helped Leela in the crime as we have a close relationship. We love each other," Kauleshwari said in her statement to police.
Kauleshwari, a resident of Patwatoli, was produced in court on Tuesday to record her statement under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Earlier, police arrested the victim's father and his friend and sent them to jail. The victim's mother Asha Devi was released from police custody after the intervention of senior police officials. The victim went missing on 28 December and her father reported the matter to the police on 4 January.
Locals cast doubt on police's version of events
Social activist Alok Kumar, a resident of Gaya, also cast doubt on the police investigation and its version of events. "A woman suddenly appeared and confessed to her involvement in the murder. It appears that the police have concocted another story to substantiate its earlier claim of honour killing," Kumar said. "Police can do anything. There have been instances when innocent people were arrested for serious offences without any evidence. Senior police officials should intervene to ensure justice to the victim's family."
However, Gaya senior superintendent of police (SSP) Rajeev Mishra countered Kumar's allegations. "We are collecting evidence. Kauleshwari's husband Chhatrapati was earlier detained by police for interrogation. Later, his wife's involvement emerged. She was taken into custody yesterday," Mishra said. The police have already collected blood samples from Turaj and Leela. "The bloodstains collected from Leela's home will be matched with Leela's samples. The samples have been sent to state forensic science laboratory in Patna for a DNA test," an investigating officer revealed.
Additional Director General of Police (law and order) Alok Raj, who visited Gaya last week to meet the family of the victim, said in Patna on Monday, "I am amazed as to why the investigating officials were in a hurry to arrest the victim's father. They should have collected evidence and then acted."
Police under fire
This isn't the first time Bihar Police have drawn flak from the locals and media. The victim's mother Asha Devi, pointing to the Sondiha gangrape case, said, "What happened in that case is an open secret." In June, two youths from Gaya’s Sondiha village were arrested for the alleged gangrape of a woman and her minor daughter. According to the police’s initial version, Gaurav Sharma and Shivam Sharma waylaid a medical practitioner when he was heading home with his family on a bike. The duo tied the man to a tree and raped his wife and 12-year-old daughter before robbing them. The police claimed that the mud-laced clothes of the accused were seized from their respective homes at Sondiha village under Koch Police Station.
However, two months later, the police claimed the involvement of Paswan gang of highway robbers. The DNA test on Paswan gang members confirmed the involvement of two accused in the gangrape. The top police officials later admitted the negligence on part of the investigating officers, which initially led to arrest of Gaurav and Shivam. "Both Gaurav and Shivam are still languishing in jail while the family are running from pillar to post," Asha added.
Gaya police have come under fire in the past. For example, the police claimed to have cracked the case of a robbery of a home of noted businessman Binod Poddar in 2018. Binod's home is located near the residences of top officials such as the district magistrate and senior superintendent of police. One suspect was arrested from Muzaffarpur and police closed the investigation. However, no stolen items have been recovered nor have any other arrests been made.
Similarly, the murder of a Gaya businesswoman has remained unsolved. The woman Radha Kumari, in her early 30s, was shot dead by criminals while heading home on her two-wheeler in September. Police took two persons into custody Tuesday night, but let them off after investigating. Another young woman was killed by unidentified persons in the same month. Both incidents occurred in the heart of the city. Gaya local Pankaj Kumar lamented the fact that the police have seemingly made no progress in Kumari's murder despite the serious nature of the crime.
Demand for CBI probe grows
The residents of Patwatoli and its neighbouring Manpur locality took to the streets after the victim's body was recovered on Gaya-Khijarsarai road. Weavers launched an indefinite strike and around 12,000 power looms and 8,000 handlooms remained closed for two days. A delegation of weavers led by Prem Narain Patwa met the deputy inspector general and the district magistrate, seeking their intervention. The delegation met Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and demanded a CBI probe.
The agitation gained momentum with candle marches in Bengaluru, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. Several leaders, including former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav called on the victim's family and assured that justice would be done.
Ramashankar Mishra is a Patna-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com
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