A coarse white cloth wrapped around his head, Suraj Kumar, 21, sat surrounded by relatives and neighbours as they discussed the events leading to his acid injuries in Inampura village near Bijnor last week.
Suraj recounted the conversations over the past two months with his friend Afreen, whom he has accused of the attack. “Why did she do it?” he wondered.
By Afreen’s account, however, it was Suraj who had tried to throw acid on her and it spilled on him instead. The police are inclined to believe Afreen is guilty and said they are likely to issue an arrest warrant Tuesday. They are also probing her allegations against Suraj and said Afreen is absconding. The Indian Express spoke to both Suraj and Afreen three days after the incident.
Suraj recounted his version at his home in Gajraula Shiv village, about 6 km from Afreen’s home in Inampura village. “Last month, when a family came to see me with a marriage proposal, I told Afreen about it,” Suraj told the Indian Express, wincing in pain. “Afreen reacted sharply and started insisting we elope. But I had never intended to marry her and had never made any false promises either. We are from different communities and can never get married. I have told her this several times.”
According to Suraj, Afreen called him home on January 10 for her . When he and his friend Arjun reached her house, they did not find any celebrations but were offered dinner. “On January 4, I was in Haridwar when Afreen said she urgently wanted to meet me. She asked me to see her on January 8 but I said I was busy. Then she invited me to her birthday on January 10. That I just could not refuse,” said Suraj.
“We reached there at 6.30 pm and in half an hour finished dinner. We were surprised because there was neither any birthday cake nor any other friends. I had bought a small gift for her. Her entire family was there but there weren’t any celebrations as such. Around 7 pm when we were pulling out the motorcycle to leave, Afreen called me back into the house. I had entered the gate when she reached towards me with a vessel and splashed some liquid on me. I realised it was acid when my jacket and layers of sweaters were charred and my face started stinging. I fled with my friend and he drove me to the hospital, where I lost consciousness.”
Afreen’s account matched Suraj’s only in terms of the time of the incident. She was the one who filed the first FIR, alleging that Suraj had come to her house, tried to molest her and threatened to throw acid on her and that the acid spilled on him during the scuffle. “He came when my father and brother were not at home. Only my three sisters and I were in and Suraj mockingly said, ‘That is why we came early’. He tried to molest me and my sisters too. We were scared but when he brought out the container of acid, I fought back and it fell on him,” Afreen recounted agitatedly as she waited at the local legislator’s office.
Suraj’s family later lodged an FIR against Afreen and her family, who they claim were present during the incident.
Afreen conceded that she did not sustain any injuries but a few drops fell on her dress and it got charred. “He had been making advances for the past few months but I told him we are from different communities and can never get married,” Afreen alleged.
Suraj’s sister-in-law said that about 10 days ago she received a call from Afreen on Suraj’s phone. “She asked if Suraj’s marriage was being fixed and then chirpily asked us to invite her too for the wedding,” she said.
Both Suraj and Afreen refuse to admit they were in a relationship and insist that the other was making overtures over the past few months. “We first met in college in Bijnor and became friends. She and her family used to visit their relatives in our neighbourhood and that is how we got close,” Suraj added.
“A case has been established against Afreen but she is absconding as of now, so further interrogation could not be done. An arrest warrant is likely to be issued tomorrow,” Bijnor SP Subhash Singh Baghel said Monday. “We are also probing her allegations against Suraj. The call detail records and investigation by local officers have proved her guilt beyond doubt and it was she who had invited Suraj home.”