AS ALIGARH police prepare to file a chargesheet against four persons accused of murdering a two-year-old girl, her village is gripped by fear and uncertainty. While some residents say they have sent their children to Ghaziabad nearby, others have decided to carry ID cards at all times.
Over the last two days, several Hindutva activists have visited to express support for the girl’s family. On Sunday, Sadhvi Prachi was stopped by police when she insisted on meeting the family. On Monday, members of the Karni Sena visited the village to demand the death penalty for the accused.
Youngsters in the village have also been getting messages about a protest labelled “Fight Against Rape” at Jantar Mantar in Delhi Tuesday by an activist, Harsh Chhikara, who tried to visit the region allegedly with a large number of people but was briefly halted by security forces.
Pradeep Jain, who runs a small grocery store, says he has been shutting shop early for the last two days. “I have shops next to mine that belong to people from different communities and there has never been a problem. For the last few days, people from outside have been coming and stoking tension,” he said.
“I have two children and I have sent my son, who just finished high school, to Ghaziabad for the time being. Even I don’t feel like staying at my shop for long. If people riot, they will not see whose shop it is. All of us want justice. But the outsiders are making it difficult,” he said.
On Sunday, residents say, a group of people allegedly shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ outside the victim’s house. “All of us asked them to leave. We have to do it for peace,” said Lalit, the former pradhan.
The village is on edge, says Anuj, a young resident who is watching a Facebook live video on his phone by Chhikara — it’s an appeal for justice.
“The people in the village are fine and they understand the sensitivity. We have always lived in harmony. All these messages and talk can create problems,” said Anuj.
Sanju Verma, another resident, carries his Aadhaar card and a property document to ensure quick identification. “I am not taking any risk. I had to go outside for some work and I realised that with the level of security deployment, I need to be careful,” he said.
Dr Arvind Kumar, SP Crime (Aligarh), said “movement has been normal” since Sunday. “We have a conversation with people explaining the reason of the deployment and why some are turned away. Some people were allowed as we felt law and order would not be threatened,” he said. Only residents are being allowed in or out after heavy checks.
Police are also looking into the social media posts of at least five people. “Prima facie, it appears that their social media posts were unlawful and would create law and order problems. We will investigate, file a case and make arrests accordingly,” the SP said.
On Monday, the district administration cut Internet services in the village to prevent rumours from spreading via social media.
According to the police, the two-year-old was allegedly abducted by the main accused, Jahed, and another accused from outside her home on May 30.
Police said they disposed her body in a garbage dump after killing her allegedly over a monetary dispute Jahed had with the girl’s grandfather. The other accused are Jahed’s wife and his brother.
“Our next step is to file the chargesheet. We are confident that even though we have a window of 90 days to file it, we will do it at the earliest,” said Ajay Anand, ADG Agra.
In the village, Jahed’s neighbour is among the few who had spotted the girl’s body for the first time, three days after she had gone missing. “I have a wedding in my family which is in my neighbour’s village and I need to be there. But if I leave now everyone will believe that I had something to do with it and probably I escaped. The fear is real,” she said.