Pune rural police on Monday said the death of a 19-year-old girl, whose body was found in a well in Koregaon Bhima village near Pune on Sunday, was prima facie a case of suicide. Two people with whom the girl’s family has a legal dispute over construction on a piece of plot next to their house have been arrested, the police said. Seven others have been booked in the case, in which the police invoked the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
A top officer said the police have also not ruled out the suicide being a result of the fact that her family was still waiting for rehabilitation after their home was burnt in the violence on January 1. The girl, Puja Suresh Sakat, who came from a Dalit family, was a student of Class XII in a local intermediate college.
According to the police, the family’s home was burnt down on January 1, when violence broke out in the village and surrounding areas during celebrations to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Koregaon-Bhima by different Dalit groups. Some Hindutva outfits had opposed the event this year.
Puja’s body was found in a well near the temporary rehabilitation camp for the affected families in Koregaon Bhima village on Sunday morning. The teen had gone missing from home on Friday night, and the family filed a missing complaint the following day after failing to find her in the village and nearby areas. The last rites were performed in the village amid heavy police deployment.
SP (Pune rural) Suvez Haque on Monday said, “Based on the postmortem report, it prima facie looks like a case of suicide. No suicide note has yet been found. A case of abetment of suicide has been registered against nine persons based on allegations made by the family. Two of these people, with whom the family has a civil litigation going on, have been arrested.”
Those booked in the case have been identified as Vilas Vedpathak, Ganesh Pathak, Navnath Darekar, Somnath Darekar, Vilas Darekar, Adv Sudhir Dhamdhere, Subhash Ghavate, Goraksh Thorat and Ganesh Thorat. Some of them are part of the court case against Puja’s family. Haque said, “We are also probing the family’s allegation that the girl ended her life as they had not yet been rehabilitated. Some other angles are also being probed.” Haque confirmed that the girl and her family members were witnesses in January 1 cases of arson and violence. Asked whether the family had alleged that Puja was being threatened or harassed to withdraw her statement in that case, Haque said, “The family has not made any such allegation.”
Haque has also said that he told the family that the district collector has been approached to ensure quick rehabilitation for them. Asked whether the police are also probing into the possibility that a possible family or personal issue could have led to the death following claims of some villagers that Puja’s sister told them on Saturday that she had allegedly left home in a huff on Friday night following an argument with their father, an officer from Shikrapur police station in the village said no angle has been ruled out.