Almost a fortnight after the mysterious death of a 23-year-old girl who aspired to join the Punjab Police, the police is clueless about the motive. The girl died when a hammer fell on her head during a practice session at Multi Purpose Stadium, Ludhiana, on 15 October. The young girl, Esther of Peerubanda Mohalla, near Jalandhar bypass, had reportedly cleared the recent trials for the post of Sub-Inspector.
The girl, was standing in the parking lot of the ground opposite the stadium when the hammer hit her, Esther’s cousin Samuel said. A case has been registered against Constable Harjot Singh. Police sources said that the hammer reportedly slipped from his hands during the practice session in the stadium and hit the girl on the head. A case has been registered, but he is yet to be arrested. Esther’s friend Aman had turned on the scooter ignition and they were about to leave when a hammer weighing 7.26 kg hit Esther, killing her on the spot.
“My sister was elated after clearing the trials for SI,” Samuel said. Her father Raj Kumar, a daily-wager, had struggled to arrange for her training. Following the incident, officials of the Sports Department termed the incident as an accident.
Denying the allegation levelled by the family of the girl that national-level player Harjot, who is a constable with the Punjab Police, intentionally targeted Esther, officials of the Sports Department of India said it was an unfortunate and rarest of rare incidents.
When contacted, SAI Ludhiana centre in-charge Harbans Singh, Harjot was practising the hammer throw as usual and on that unfortunate day, he seemed to have lost control while releasing the hammer which accidentally hit Esther’s head.
“It was a rare sports accident. No one is at fault. No such incident has ever been reported in the stadium before,” Harbans Singh added. District Sports Officer Kartar Singh, when asked about the circumstances leading to the accident, said the girl along with her friend was roaming on the grounds when constable Harjot was practicing the hammer throw. Harjot’s wife also asked Esther to stay away from the ground as the hammer could strike her.
After repeated requests, though the girl left the ground and was about to leave the parking lot along with her friend on scooter, she accidentally got hit by the hammer, the DSO added.
“To prevent any such accidents in future, we are now planning to fix the timings for the practice session of hammer throw so that players practising other sports are not at the risk of being hit by a hammer,” he informed.
Even the hammer throw cage at the stadium is in a shambles. The length of the ground is reportedly 50 metres, which is also less than the required length.
The ground also has adjoining courts of tennis, volleyball and other sports. Players practising on those courts are at risk of being hit by hammer if it crosses the 50-metre mark.
An athletics coach of SAI said due to the ongoing recruitment process of the Punjab Police, several boys and girls have been visiting the stadium for practice. “Since this a multi-purpose stadium for various sports such as volleyball, tennis, handball, drag track, hammer throw etc and all grounds are adjoining each other, the existence of hammer throw track in it, is a major hurdle and risky too. To prevent any mishap, hammer throw track should be closed or shifted to some other place,” the coach asserted.
The police aver that it was an accident as the hammer’s chain broke, but booked constable Harjot Singh under Section 304A of the IPC. Esther’s father says Singh used to tease her during practice
What makes the case look suspicious is the allegations that the police have been pressurising the family for a compromise. Even before registering an FIR against the constable, Harjot, the police made many attempts to reach a compromise in the case. Father of the victim Raj Kumar said, “I don’t want any compromise. I just want punishment for the cop whose act killed my daughter. With her demise, our family has suffered a major setback. She was expected to join the Punjab Police, but now all our dreams have been completely dashed to the ground”.
The father of the deceased, who lives in Salem Tabri , said the accused used to tease his daughter when she used to go the stadium for practice. He said she had told him about it, but he asked her to ignore him. Kumar said his daughter also asked him to register a police complaint against the accused, but they never did, which was a mistake on his part. He accused the SHO of Division Number 8 police station, Jagdeep Singh, of not paying heed to his woes and forcing him to wait for long, thereby delaying his daughter’s cremation. He said the police ignored his pleas and registered the case under Section 304-A (causing death due to negligence).
Kumar said he also visited the spot later and it seemed like a planned murder and not an accident. A murder case should be registered against the accused and he should be hanged, he said, adding that action should be taken against the SHO too. However, the police continue to say that it was an accident as the hammer’s chain broke, but had booked constable Harjot Singh under Section 304-A of the IPC.
The SHO, while refuting the allegations, said the police filed the case keeping in view prima facie evidence and the deceased’s father never told them about harassment. He added that they would look into the matter. In view of claims and counter claims, the death of this young girl, who had cleared for the post of Sub Inspector, remains shrouded in mystery.