On a door of their home are pasted postcard-sized photographs of two girls, each hanging from a separate branch of a mango tree. The elder cousin is in a green salwar suit, the younger in red and pink, the dupatta around her neck inches below a knot of threads she had stitched herself. The bodies swayed like that for 14 hours as villagers protested, until three brothers were charged with rape and murder, two policemen from the village chowki booked for dereliction of duty and dismissed, and three others suspended.
Three weeks since the May 27 twin murders at Katra Sadatganj village in Badaun, investigations by the UP police and now the CBI are yet to throw up a clear sequence of the events that took place in the 10 hours between the girls stepping out that evening, supposedly to relieve themselves, and the discovery of their bodies the next morning. With accounts varying after a point, investigators are relying on lie-detector tests and brain mapping of the accused.
The two families
The girls belonged to the Maurya Shakya OBC community. The accused are Yadavs, also OBCs, three brothers whose family had moved to Katra Sadatganj five years ago after their village of Badam Nangla, about 2 km ahead along the Ganga, was immersed in floods.
The elder girl, 16, dropped out after class VIII from a private school. She had lost her mother as a child and was three when her father, the youngest of three brothers, married a teenager. The “new mother”, who has no children, says of her stepdaughter: “She sometimes said she wanted to study, but we had started looking for a groom.”
The younger cousin, around 14 according to her postmortem but 12 by her family’s account, had just completed class VI at the same school. Her father is the eldest brother of the other girl’s father. She was fond of embroidery and handicrafts; cops who guard the house now use hand fans she had made.
The main accused, youngest among his brothers, is 15 according to his father. He had come home a month earlier, after three months in Delhi working as a labourer. His father says he is is “ashamed” of him: “In front of me, he told the police that he was in love with the elder girl.”
The second son, 18, had appeared for the XII finals from a school in Etah, where he had been staying with his sister, and returned to the village a week earlier. His father had promised him a motorcycle should he get into college.
The eldest, around 22, is married, with a one-year-old daughter. He was the only one who stayed in the village, and worked the fields of Yadavs from neighbouring villages.
The initial search
The elder girl’s father says she cooked the family’s dinner and stepped out with her cousin around continued…