Ved Prakash Jain is a well-known name in Meerut. The retired sub-divisional magistrate had earned a reputation for integrity and honesty during his long career in the state administrative service, earning him the President’s medal for meritorious service. For Jain, that is in the past now. On October 10, the 74-year-old was arrested for allegedly helping his 17-year-old grandson cover up a murder. Jain’s son Rajeev was also held on the same charges.
The 17-year-old had been expelled from two schools over the past two years allegedly on account of being indisciplined and rowdy. “His conduct was such that the school had to put a ban on his entry. We expelled him after he was found guilty of initiating violence on the campus,” says Bhanu Pratap Singh, chairman of the school at Pandav Nagar from where he was expelled within nine months of admission.
Since the arrests, the mother and sister of the Class XI student have left their home in Meerut’s Bombay Bazaar Colony for an undisclosed destination. An aunt, who refused to meet The Sunday Express, said she was the only one present in the house.
By all accounts, the minor’s friend, Devalika Yadav, couldn’t have been more different. The 16-year-old Class XII student had always been good in academics and wanted to become a doctor. Despite her parents’ frequent admonishment and her friends’ warnings though, she wouldn’t break off her friendship with the minor, which began when they studied together in Classes IX and X.
On October 6, Devalika left home on a Scooty saying she was going for tuitions. Instead, after a call from the minor to meet him outside the Sophiya Girls’ School in the Cantonment area, she headed there, and both decided to go to Khatauli town, 35 km away, for dinner at a popular roadside restaurant. CCTV footage of the toll plaza on the way shows the two crossing the spot on their Scooty.
According to the police, on their way back around 7 pm, when the Scooty had stopped at an overbridge, Devalika got off to talk to a friend. The boy, who didn’t like Devalika talking to this friend, tried to stop her. When he slapped Devalika in anger, she hit back. He allegedly then strangled her. While the spot located on the highway has heavy traffic around this time, no one appears to have noticed the scuffle, or intervened.
It was what followed that has shocked Meerut more. The minor allegedly called up his father Rajeev Jain at home. On hearing what had happened, Rajeev and Ved Prakash reportedly rushed to the spot. The three then allegedly carried the body in their car to the Sardhana forests, 15 km away, and dumped it. The Scooty was driven to near the Daurala police station, around 5 km from Sardhana forests, and left there.
When Devalika didn’t return home till night and the family realised she hadn’t gone for her tuitions, panic set in at her home in Meerut’s Moti Prayag Colony. Parents Pradeep and Ruby Yadav, both professors at Meerut College, and Devalika’s elder sister Deshu started calling up acquaintances. At 9 pm, the family went to the police.
Devalika’s maternal grandfather Paras Nath Yadav is an influential Samajwadi Party leader known to be close to Mulayam Singh Yadav. When despite police’s “best efforts” there was no news of Devalika’s whereabouts for two days, teachers and students of Meerut College began protests.
On October 7, an abandoned Scooty was found by Daurala police near the police station. Soon it was confirmed to be registered in the name of Devalika’s father Pradeep. The same day, the minor was taken into custody as the prime suspect. Under police questioning, he kept changing statements, and it was after two days of searching, on October 9, that Devalika’s body was recovered.
On October 10, Rakesh and Ved Prakash Jain too were arrested. They were charged with destroying evidence and helping the accused hide the body.
Police officials say that an examination of the minor’s Facebook and Google accounts showed that he had searched for easy ways to strangle someone so as to ensure quick death. “We went through his account extensively,” said Vinod Kumar Singh, the SHO of the Nauchandi police station.
Police also picked up the friend Devalika had talked to on the night of her death as well as another male friend of hers that the minor had problems with. But they were released after police found no evidence linking them to the murder. Police are now planning to use both of them as witnesses.
A friend of Devalika’s told The Sunday Express: “None of us would talk to him (the minor) even when he was in our school before being expelled. We also told Devalika not to talk to him, but she did not listen.”
At the once-bustling house of Ved Prakash Jain in Bombay Bazaar, there is deathly silence. The Jains run a chemist shop, a beauty parlour and a legal and administrative consultancy from the premises. Ved Prakash lived in the house with his wife, son Rajeev and his wife, and Rajeev’s three children. The 17-year-old is Ved Prakash’s youngest grandchild.
Nearly 5 km away, at Devalika’s Moti Prayag home, there is a constant stream of visitors offering condolences. Mother Ruby Yadav is in a state of shock, while Pradeep Yadav is reluctant to talk. “Police are investigating. Let them do their job,” he says.
Not too far away, at the Chaudhary Charan Singh prison, officials have had to separate Ved Prakash Jain and his grandson. Sources said on the night of October 11, Ved Prakash had entered into a huge argument with the 17-year-old, castigating him for making their life “hell”.
“We shifted the minor to a different barrack then,” said Jailor R K Verma.