A minor girl is raped and hanged from a tree inside a police station. Police brutality touches a new low in UP. Jaiprakash Tripathi reports
TARANNUM, 40, sits forlornly in her hut. She intones: “A mother knows her child’s body best. My daughter’s toes and soles had bloodstains, her neck was bruised by nail marks. Before killing her, the police definitely violated her.”
When TEHELKA reached the Nighasan Police Station, Sonam’s second post-mortem report had just come in. After a dodgy claim earlier that she died of asphyxia, the second report admits she was murdered but is silent on rape.
The alleged sexual assault and murder of Sonam, 13, on 10 June at the police station in Lakhimpur district created a huge political furore despite UP Police pulling out all stops to suppress the truth. First, they got three doctors from the district hospital to fudge the autopsy report. The report claimed Sonam had committed suicide.
Why would a 13-year-old go to a police station to kill herself? This illogical story forced the BSP government to order a second post-mortem by a team of doctors from Lucknow. This revealed that Sonam was strangled.
The girl’s parents, Tarannum and Intezar Ali, a dailywager, were offered 5 lakh to buy their silence. The cops also intimidated the villagers, with the result that nobody was willing to testify. After much prodding, however, a village woman who had been grazing her goats near the police station at the time of the incident managed to reveal a little. Her version seconded Tarannum’s story that the “girl was molested and her private parts bruised”.
While the villagers maintained a stony silence, a PAC jawan stationed in Nighasan after the tense situation told TEHELKA on condition of anonymity, “Every murder has a motive, and Sonam’s is no exception. Even if we believe that she wasn’t sexually molested, why have the authorities been silent about the motive?” The jawan believes it is a strategic move by the authorities to ensure the culprits are exonerated. “This is just the way the police functions. If the motive of the murder cannot be established in the court, how will anyone be deemed guilty?” he asks.
Lakhimpur Kheri MP Zafar Ali Naqvi is equally sceptical, saying, “If the first post-mortem conducted by the health department was fudged, how can we trust the second one?”
Naqvi alleges that the Mayawati government is trying to shield the police officials even against its wishes because now the matter has acquired political proportions. In that case, if it is proven that the girl was raped and murdered in the police station, the government will be left shamefaced.
Sonam’s elder sister narrates narrates the sequence of events that led Sonam to the police station. “Sonam and her five-year- old brother Armaan were grazing their cattle near the station. One buffalo from the herd strayed into the station and Sonam and Armaan went inside to get it out. There, the police personnel chased Armaan away and detained Sonam.” When she didn’t return even after an hour, her elder sister and Armaan went to look for her. “When we reached the boundary of the station, I saw Sonam’s body dangling from the branch of a tree,” she says.
After the incident, the administration suspended the Superintendent of Police, the three doctors who conducted the first post-mortem, and the entire staff of the police station. A police attendant working at the Nighasan station, Ram Chander, was arrested while two other accused constables are absconding. Now, the Allahabad High Court has admitted a PIL seeking a CBI probe even as the government has ordered an investigation by the CB-CID.
Meanwhile, political vultures have swooped down on the tragedy. The Peace Party camping outside Nighasan station with tents and banners is reminiscent of a poll campaign. On 14 June, when the party leader went to offer condolences and financial aid to Sonam’s family, his supporters were shouting slogans about their leader. As if Sonam’s death wasn’t tragic enough, even her soul has been deprived of peace.