10 km from Katra Sadatganj village in UP’s Badaun district, at a ghat frequented by buffaloes and pehelwans from a nearby akhara, is a fresh, uncovered grave. A red flag marks it, and two police constables guard it.
Here lie the two minor girls — cousins aged 14 and 15 — who were introduced to the world by their defining image: hanging from the branches of a mango tree in the village after being allegedly gangraped and murdered by a group of Yadav men at the end of May.
Three days ago, the CBI said it wanted a second autopsy on the bodies, which could be exhumed any day now.
It is customary in these parts to bury children and young unmarried girls, Badaun SP (City) Mann Singh Chauhan said. The red flag, fluttering in the strong breeze over the Ganga, has been put up by the UP Police so the CBI can locate the graves “whenever they want to exhume the remains”.
Chauhan said the girls had been buried deeper than usual. “Villagers normally bury bodies close to the surface, in the process attracting wild animals from the nearby forest. But in this case, we took precautions and dug deeper graves, so hopefully, the CBI will find some remains to conduct forensic tests,” he said.
Badaun SSP L R Kumar said, “A CBI team is already here and we are extending full support to them.” The two UP Police constables, stationed in a shack erected 20 m from the graves, were deployed after the CBI said it wanted a second autopsy.
Back in Katra Sadatganj, the families and relatives of the dead girls said they had not been told about the CBI’s plan to exhume the bodies. The UP Police said they hadn’t been formally informed either, and that they had heard about the plan only from the media.
“Mujhe nyaya chahiye,” the mother of one of the victims repeated over and over again. This “justice”, she said, would be delivered only when she was able to see the accused hanging from the same mango tree. The last time she had spoken to her daughter, she said, was to tell her to have dinner without waiting for her. “She then went out to the fields about 8 pm to relieve herself.”
The impoverished village has no toilets or electricity, and women have to wait until it is dark to relieve themselves. On May 27, the two minor girls who had stepped out of their homes never returned. Their bodies were found early the next morning, and a post mortem examination confirmed rape before murder.
“Even if you have diarrhoea, you have to wait. Life is hell anyway, you can die of your illness or go the way that my daughter did,” the mother said.
CBI registered an FIR on June 12, and a team of about 15 officers has been camping in the village ever since. On July 7, investigators put the fathers of the dead girls through lie detector tests and, on July 8, ordered a second autopsy.
The families have no pictures of their girls when they were alive. The only one they have now is the one of them hanging from the mango tree. The picture now hangs by the door of their home.