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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Shiv Sena leader’s murder case: Cobbler ends life, kin say was under police pressure to become NIA witness

Rampal did not even keep a mobile phone and had called his family after borrowing a phone at Sirhind canal. The person from whom he had borrowed phone told the family to reach Sirhind canal.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana | Published: January 24, 2018 8:50:43 am
Sena leader’s murder case Rampal

A cobbler in Khanna town of Ludhiana district allegedly committed suicide Tuesday following which his family alleged he faced police harassment to become an eye-witness in the Shiv Sena leader Durga Gupta murder case. The police have denied his family’s allegation, saying he was simply asked to join the investigation. They said the family had not blamed anyone in their statement to the police.

Gupta was shot dead at Lalheri Chowk of Khanna on April 23, 2016, in a series of targeted killings in Punjab. The case is currently being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and four main accused have been arrested. The Punjab Police have claimed involvement of pro-Khalistan groups backed by Pakistan’s ISI in the case.

Rampal (54) used to sit at Lalheri Chowk, a few metres from the crime spot. He went to Sirhind Canal on his cycle Tuesday morning and jumped into it. Before taking the extreme step, he called up home and told his wife to take care of the children. According to his family, Rampal was being “mentally tortured” by the police and forced to become an eyewitness in the case. On Monday, he was allegedly told by Khanna police that a team from NIA would be here on Tuesday and he had to accompany them to Delhi to record his statement.

“He was scared. He had never faced police or visited any court in his entire life. He was an illiterate man. He left home early morning on his cycle and around 8.15, am we received a call. My daughter Yashoda picked up call. She handed over phone to me. He said take care of children, I am going. I will not return,” said Kamlesh, his wife, while speaking to The Indian Express at Civil Hospital, Khanna.

Rampal did not even keep a mobile phone and had called his family after borrowing a phone at Sirhind canal. The person from whom he had borrowed phone told the family to reach Sirhind canal. However, by the time they reached, Rampal had already jumped into the canal. “He kept repeating he did not see any murder. But they kept forcing him. He was often called by the Khanna police for questioning even during working hours. He earned just Rs 100-200 a day and that too had become difficult because of this daily hassle,” said Manish, his elder son, who works as a hairdresser.

Rampal is survived by wife, two sons and three daughters. The family, however, has not blamed anyone for suicide in their official statement to the police and inquest proceedings have been filed at Sirhind police station under section 174 of CrPC. “There is no foul play in the case. He was a probable witness, not an accused in the case. If someone is asked to join the investigation, how can it be harassment? Maybe there was some internal issue in the family or his personal life,” said Inspector Rajneesh Sood, SHO Khanna city. He said no suicide note had been recovered.

Sub-inspector Pardeep Kumar, SHO Sirhind police station, said, “We have filed inquest proceedings as family has not blamed anyone in their statement recorded with us.”

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