By Kiran Deep, Roving Editor, Shimla
Even though there was a heavy rainfall in Shimla, the gravity of the Gudiya case was such that I could not stay inside. I moved out to meet the people. While walking through different parts of Shimla, the Queen of Hills, which has witnessed the first of its kind gruesome crime in the history of Himachal Pradesh, I talked to several people. One thing was evident—all eyes are on the CBI to complete its investigation and reveal the truth.
Disappointed with the police, the victim’s family members and people have alleged that the police has deliberately shielded the real accused. All of them are roaming freely. One-and-half months after the incident, they are hoping that the CBI probe will reveal the truth as who all were involved in the gang rape and murder of 16-year-old Gudiya. Gudiya belonged to the Hilaila village under Kotkhai sub-division of Shimla district. The deceased’s mother is not buying the police theory and has raised serious doubts about the arrests of four labourers. She says they have been made scapegoats while real accused are roaming free.
The resentment among the people about the state government and police had immediately surfaced as I opened conversation about the case and hardly found a person who trusts the police version of the incident.
“Strangely the heinous crime which has caused pain among the people is still a mystery for many even though the police have arrested six persons while one accused was murdered under the police custody,” rued a resident of Kotkhai and students of Shimla University.
“The police did not probe the matter properly, nor did it take the local villagers into confidence. Otherwise the police might have got the information about the real culprits. We are getting a number of calls from people from different places because such a thing has happened for the first time in this peaceful state” he added.
If the CBI will probe the case seriously then forensic reports of the DNA samples of the accused, other suspects in the case and also of those collected from the deceased’s body and where she was dumped, will be able to lead the premier investigating agency(CBI) to the conclusion, the legal luminaries told this Correspondent.
“The assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh are due in November and any party can have advantage or disadvantage if the investigation by the CBI will take much time. The case is very sensitive and under a lot of public pressure. I have opposed the CBI plea to grant it three months time to complete the investigation during the last hearing of the case on August 2. The CBI has already got more time than the police to investigate the matter,” said Advocate- General of Himachal Pradesh, Shrawan Dogra, while talking exclusively to this Correspondent.
Divulging details, he said that in the interest of justice the state government itself had requested for a CBI probe.
While worrying about the social media coverage, he said, “The media has to play a positive role and act very seriously as the case is very sensitive. I am particularly worried about the role of social media. The public opinion of the case is much depend on the media coverage of the case and hope that it will play its role as fourth estate and work objectively.”
Gudiya, who belongs to a poor family, was a 10th class student at Mahasu Government School in Kotkhai. She was gang raped and murdered on July 4 when after attending school, she was on her way to home. Two days later her body was recovered from the nearby forest area with serious injury marks all over the body, including her private parts. The autopsy report has revealed that she was gang-raped and then strangulated to death. She was subjected to inhuman treatment. Her legs and arms had fractures and cigarette burns all over her body.
The state which usually remains peacefully was marred with violent protests for justice by the aggrieved and shaken people. They resorted to protest several times alleging that the state government was not doing anything significant to arrest the real culprits. The victim’s family, NGOs and activists had raised the demand of CBI inquiry in this case. As the pressure was mounting, the DGP, Somesh Goyal, then formed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to arrest the culprits.
The police officials say this is a case of chance and was not planned in advance. Raju, who was driving a vehicle, was known to the deceased. When she was on her way back, she was given a lift by Raju and other five accused were also sitting inside the vehicle. “Raju was working as a manager in an orchard of a leading apple grower at Halaila village. All of them were drunk.
Nine days after the incident, on July 12 the Special Investigation Team(SIT) have arrested the six persons in the case. The police first arrested the accused Ashish Chauhan alias Ashu (29), a son of a local planter and resident of Sharal village in Kotkhai. Later, on the same day, the five others named in the case were arrested. They are Rajender Singh (32) alias Raju, a resident of Hiliala, Suraj Singh (29) and Lok Jung (19) alias Chotu, both of Nepali national, Subash Singh Bisht (42), and Deepak (29) alias Deepu, both residents of Uttarakhand. While addressing the media on the same day the DGP, Somesh Goyal, claimed that the police in the case have questioned 84 persons and screened 28 call details. The police have registered a case of rape and murder under Sections 302, 376 and Section 4 of POCSO Act against the accused. Later, Suraj was killed in the police custody on the intervening night of July 18 and July 19. He was alleged to be murdered by another accused Rajender Singh.
Even the State Chief Secretary, Vidya Chander Pharka, while highlighting the people’s distrust with the five arrested labourers in the case in his report, said that on the basis of physical, biological, digital and circumstantial evidence collected during the investigation, the five accused were arrested by the Shimla police on July 12. The next day they were produced in the court and sent to the police custody till July 20.
Meanwhile, words spread through social media that the real accused who are influential persons were saved by the police while innocent have been framed. This had led to a number of protests, even violent ones, in the different places. As a result the five FIRs were registered, including three in Kotkhai, one in Theog and one in New Shimla, the Chief Secretary further said while providing details about the deteriorating the law and order situation after the incident in his report submitted before the High Court.
The situation further aggravated when on the intervening night of August 18 and 19, Suraj, one of the accused died inside the lock-up. As a result the SHO Kotkhai and one sentry were suspended. The police have registered a case under Sections 302 of the IPC in the police station Kotkhai in this regard, the Chief Secretary, further stated.