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After rape, twin murders, Dalit family asks: If fields unsafe, how will we earn?

The police arrested the three men, their suspicions strengthened by the fact that two of them had been absent from the village following the incident.

Luhari Khurd, Muzaffarnagar: The area where the bodies of the rape victim and her nephew were found. Gajendra Yadav

Last week, a 19-year-old Dalit woman left her house with her 6-year-old nephew to join her parents in a sugarcane field less than a kilometre from her house in Luhari Khurd village of Muzaffarnagar. The following day, their bodies were found in the fields, the heads totally or partially severed, with police saying the murder was committed with a sickle the teenager was carrying. She was raped, allegedly by three locals who, police said, killed the two to prevent identification, police said.

The police arrested the three men, their suspicions strengthened by the fact that two of them had been absent from the village following the incident.

“The village has some men who have a criminal history,” said Omvir Singh, SP (City), Muzaffarnagar. “After the bodies were discovered on December 20, police investigation revealed that two of them were missing since the day of the incident and their families did not know their whereabouts. One of the men, Sharafat, was picked up and he admitted to killing them. He named the other two men, who were absent from the village. They were arrested Monday after an exchange of fire during which the accused received injuries and a constable too suffered a bullet injury in the leg.”

The teenager’s home is on the outskirts of the village, which has around 8,000 voters, mostly Muslims. “We are poor, we work on the fields and that is our only source of income. If we are not safe in broad daylight while travelling to the fields, how will we earn our living?” says the woman’s elder brother, who works as a farmhand. According to police, the three men had started following the woman and her nephew from an Ambedkar statue less than 50m from her house. “The accused told us that they had been drinking and were standing near the statue when they saw her and started following her,” SP Singh said. “They said that their intentions were wrong. They dragged her to the fields, raped her and then used her sickle to kill the boy first, then her.”

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On Tuesday afternoon, two policemen stood guard near the Ambedkar statue along with half a dozen village residents. Standing next to them, the teenager’s younger brother said, “She had gone to college two days before this happened. She wanted a BA degree but not everyone in the family was supportive.”

“The teenager was supposed to get married in the next few months,” the SP said. “Her family did not know that she used to talk to her fiancé over the phone. In November, they had found her doing so and took her phone away. On December 18, she met him on her way to college and got another mobile from him.”

The day she was killed, she was speaking with him on the phone around 2 pm, while walking to the fields. “That mobile was recovered from the possession of the accused. It had recorded calls from that afternoon. The last call she had made was nearly five minutes long,” Singh said.

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Police said the nephew identified one of the accused when they were dragging them to the fields. “Since they belonged to the village, the boy knew them. He referred to one of them as ‘Mama’. The accused got scared and killed him. The boy’s head was severed from his body while the teenager’s neck was slit, the head loosely hanging from the torso,” Singh said.

First published on: 27-12-2017 at 05:52:17 am
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