The main accused in the lynching of 15-year-old Junaid Khan was tracked by a piece of evidence that many felt was almost of no use: a blurry CCTV footage that made it impossible to discern faces. A day after he was arrested from Maharashtra, 30-year-old Naresh Kumar was produced in a Faridabad court and remanded in police custody for two days.
The CCTV footage, that had been procured last week, shows three men fleeing the area on a motorcycle, soon after the train came to a halt at Asaoti railway station. The “poor quality” of the footage, and the scene it captured, however, led to delays in investigation, police said. “In the CCTV footage, the man at the tail end of the motorcycle is Kumar. We are still conducting investigations to ascertain the role of the other two men in the incident,” said Kamal Deep Goyal, Superintendent of Police, Haryana Railway Police.
Kumar, police said on Sunday, is a resident of Palwal’s Bhamrola village and used to work as a security guard in Delhi. He used take the local train every day to travel to and from work, police added. While Kumar is in remand, police hope to seize the murder weapon, and procure important leads on other people who may have been involved in the incident.
The police on Sunday afternoon submitted two applications in the court of Duty Magistrate Sandeep Kumar in Faridabad — one for a Test Identification Parade (TIP) of the accused and another seeking three-day police remand for him.
“The accused refused the request for a TIP, and the judge has taken a separate statement regarding the same, following which the application was dismissed. Separately, an application was submitted for a three-day police remand, during which, police said they want to retrieve the bloodstained clothes from the accused’s village, and the knife used in the crime from Jatola village, where some of his relatives stay,” said Nibrash Ahmed, the lawyer for the prosecution.
“In addition, police also want to question the accused to obtain leads about others who were a part of the 15-20 people that made up the mob. The court has remanded the accused in police custody for two days, following which he will be produced in court again on July 11,” Ahmed added.
Police said that during interrogation, Kumar has, so far, revealed that he had boarded the train from Shivaji Bridge, and was involved in the argument from the beginning, when it broke out at Okhla station.
“He has also admitted to stabbing Junaid and his brothers,” said Goyal.
In the two-week period between the incident and his arrest, police said, Kumar stayed at home for some time, then travelled to Mathura and Vrindavan, and finally sought shelter in Sakri in Maharashtra’s Dhule district, where he managed to secure a job at a plant, and from where he was finally arrested on Saturday.
Kumar’s family, however, claimed that police personnel arrived at their doorstep on Friday and took his father, Inder Singh, for questioning. His brother, Suresh, who is also employed as a security guard, was picked up from his workplace as well.
“Police managed to find the other two men, who gave my brother a lift to Palwal after the incident, after going through the CCTV footage… The pictures were unclear but they were known in Asaoti. They revealed that they had dropped Naresh near Jatola. After that, the police managed to track us down,” said Suresh, adding that the family was, from the start, aware of both Naresh’s role in the crime, as well as his whereabouts, but insisted that the stabbing was an act of “self-defence”.
According to the Suresh, during the fight, Kumar stepped in on behalf of an elderly man for whom Junaid and his companions refused to give up their seats.
“A fight broke out over seats, which became violent, and the boys summoned more men from their village, who came armed with chains, belts, and knives… They were attacking my brother and hitting him… He grabbed the knife from them when they were on the verge of stabbing him. It was an act of self-defence, not murder,” he said.
Police, however, refused to comment on this, saying, “This is an ongoing investigation so we do not want to reveal more facts right now.” For Junaid’s family, meanwhile, the sense of relief on Sunday was mixed with one of apprehension.
“We are satisfied with the investigation done by police and with the arrest of the man who stabbed Junaid, but the matter will not be over until justice is served. We want the accused to be sentenced to death, and will not be happy until this is done,” said Jalaluddin, Junaid’s father.