Gaya: Gaya erupted in protests after a minor girl was brutally raped and killed. Two huge candle marches were organised in the city on 9-10 January reminiscent of the fury witnessed during the Nirbhaya protests of 2012 in Delhi. Gaya Police, however, picked up the victim's family on suspicion of honour killing.
The badly-mutilated body of a 16-year-old resident of Manpur Patwatoli locality of Gaya, was found in the field, barely 700 meters from her house, on 6 January, after which residents of Gaya organised protests to condemn police inaction. The girl, second of four siblings (all girls), went missing on 28 December, 2018. She had left home to go to the local market.
Residents of Gaya during the candle march protesting the murder and rape of the 16-year-old minor. Image sourced by 101 Reporters
A family member of the victim had approached local police after frantically searching for her for two days but the police kept dilly-dallying and did not register an FIR. It was finally registered when family members approached the local media.
Patwatoli is also known as the Manchester of Bihar. Around 1,000 power looms operate in the area dominated by Patwa weavers. The locality is also known for producing IIT-ians as several students from Patwatoli invariably feature in the list of successful IIT-JEE aspirants. Power looms also protested the brutal killing and remained shut for third consecutive day.
As reported by local media, Buniyadganj police registered an FIR on 4 January, but maintained a nonchalant attitude towards probing the whereabouts of the girl.
"We kept searching for her at our level. On 6 January, someone in the market told us that the CCTV cameras installed in the market could have some clues. We were downloading the footage in question in a flash drive when I got a call saying that a body has been found by the owner of a construction material retailer in bushes in Baksariya Tola. By that time police had also reached the spot," the victim's father was quoted as saying by local media.
According to reports, the body was found in a badly mutilated condition. The head, that had been hacked off and found some distance away, was burned by acid, making it impossible for a visual identification. The blue sweater she was wearing was torn, revealing the half-naked torso with deep wounds on the upper half.
"Second among four siblings, she was a Class IX dropout but used to take private tuition in the evening after work. Hailing from a family of meager resources and living in a cramped 400 square feet home, the total household income was 8,000-9,000 a month, hardly enough to feed the mouths of a six-member family. She and her elder sister, suffering from cleft palate, also used to work along with their parents," said Rakesh Patwa(name changed), a neighbour. The third child is differently-abled, the neighbour further added.
While the family and Patwa community claims that the police's lackadaisical approach led to the murder of the minor, the case took an interesting turn when police, on the basis of a statement given by the youngest of the siblings (who is six-year-old), claimed that the girl had eloped with someone on 28 December and returned on 31 December only to be killed on 6 January.
Labelling it as a case of honour killing, Buniyadganj police picked up the family of the victim, including the minor siblings, and seven others on Thursday evening.
"In fact, the family was in such dire straits that funeral of the girl took place only after the owner of the power loom where she used to work, donated Rs 10,000 to the family to make the arrangements. As far as we knew, the girl used to keep to herself and was never seen going out with any boy. Why would a family, which is so poor that it was not able to even afford the funeral of the girl would indulge in an act like honor killing?" said Sarvesh Kumar, an activist from the Patwa community.
Gaya SSP Rajeev Mishra said that the father of the victim and his friend have been detained for interrogation. The girl's elder sister's statement has also been recorded in a local court under Section 164 of CrPC. "The girl's elder sister said that the girl had returned home on 31 December. Her father and his friend thrashed her for eloping with a neighbour. On 4 January, the victim's father's friend came to Panahi (Patwatoli) house and left with the girl for an unknown destination. Two days later, the girl's beheaded body was found," the SSP revealed.
On 28 December, the girl was seen shopping at a mall near Panahi park in Gaya district headquarters town, police has claimed. "The post mortem report is awaited," Mishra added. Magadh range deputy inspector general Vinay Kumar said prima facie the incident appeared to be a case of honour killing. "Scientific evidence is being collected to substantiate the charges levelled against the family and acquaintances. In no case, an innocent person will be prosecuted," the DyIG said.
"The local police is trying to cover up their failure and trying to suppress the incident by labelling it as a case of honor killing and avoid the matter becoming an issue in the election year. The condition in which the body was found suggests rape but the police have ruled out the same even before the autopsy report has released. This itself shows the great hurry they are in to 'solve' the case. Local media is also showing scant concern for the incident by tip-toeing the official line and bowing to political pressure," Sarvesh added.
Meanwhile, Saurabh Ranjan(name changed), who organised the candle march from Patwatoli to Gaya chowk on Thursday, has cut off all contacts after receiving death threats. "This incident is the fallout of the situation which has been in making for almost two years now. Off late, young boys hailing to different communities and areas have been roaming around in Pawtatoli locality, brandishing guns. While no one resisted them so far, this one incident and local police's open patronisation of them by releasing the suspects shows how deep the rot runs," said Ranjan.
Gaya had earlier witnessed several incidents of heinous crimes against women crime. In June last year, a minor girl and her mother were gangraped after the girl's father was tied to a tree. The shocking incident took place when the family was returning to Guraru Bazar from Gaya on a motorbike. Gaya had also hogged the limelight when Rocky Yadav, son of a Janata Dal(United) MLC Manorma Devi, shot dead a Class XII student Sachin Sachdeva in a road rage incident on 7 May, 2016.
Authors are freelance writers and members of 101Reporters.com