A 10 by 8-foot house in the narrow bylanes of Patwatoli, a hub of the handloom industry in Gaya town, has been under lock and key for two days. The house belongs to family of a 16-year-old girl who went missing on December 28 and whose beheaded and mutilated body was found from a nearby field on January 6.
The girl’s parents were arrested on suspicion of killing the girl because of an alleged affair. Police have also arrested a friend of the girl’s father and detained five others. Her sisters have been hiding at neighbours’ homes for fear of police torture.
While Gaya Police are looking into the “honour killing” angle, the Patwa community of more than 15,000 households under Buniyadganj police station have been refuting the police theory, and accusing them of shielding a young man of the locality belonging to an influential family. On Friday, around 1,000 residents of Patwatoli held a meeting in protest and forced closure of work. They decided to meet the Magadh Range DIG on Saturday to demand an independent probe by a special investigation team, without local police officers.
Two days ago, 8,000 people took out a candle march demanding a fair investigation in the matter. They accused the police of torturing the girl’s elder sister to make her confess it was an honour killing.
Wazirganj DSP Abhijit Kumar Singh denied the allegations, saying the sister recorded her statement under Section 164 of CrPC and did not complain of any “police duress or torture”.
Speaking to The Indian Express after some hesitation, the elder sister said, “The police took my parents and me to the police station on January 9. Women constables kept slapping and pushing me to make me confess that my sister had returned home on December 31. The police threatened us with electric shocks and putting my parents behind bars. I broke down under police duress and told the court whatever they wanted me to say. I repeated the same version in court.”
Asked why she did not complain about police torture to the judicial magistrate while recording her statement, she said: “I was terrified. I said that my parents and my father’s friend killed my sister, which is not true. Now the entire community is behind us, I have no fear in telling the truth.”
When asked about injury marks because of alleged police torture, she said: “I was not severely beaten but slapped and threatened.”
Asked if her sister’s friends included boys, and if she had a relationship with anyone, she said: “She just had three girls from the locality as friends.”
Her grandfather added that when people started protesting in big numbers, the police picked up four members of the family. Later, he said, the girl’s sister and mother were allowed to go. “The police should get the culprits, but they have chosen to harass us,” he said.
None among the dozen neighbours The Indian Express spoke to confirmed that the missing girl had returned on December 31, as the police have claimed.
A local resident said: “All of us work till 10 pm. How is it possible that none of us saw the girl returning?” Another resident said they did not see a reason for a honour killing. “The police jumped the gun without a postmortem report. We know the girl for several years. The police have not collected evidence properly. We provided CCTV footage of January 5 night, when two people, with a dead body in between, were seen driving through the main road. Let the police identify the two first.”
Vastra Udyog Bunkar Sewa Samiti president Premnarayan Patwa, who addressed Friday’s meeting, said: “We do not trust the police investigation. They are cooking up a story to shield a lumpen element from an upper caste. We have given the name to the police but the boy was let go after detention. We demand a probe by SIT or CBI.”
Wazirganj DSP Abhijeet Kumar Singh said they had gone by the findings. “The girl’s sister recorded her statement before a judicial officer. There is no mention of police duress. We are talking to other suspects as well,” he said. He denied that the sister was assaulted.
Gaya SP Rajiv Mishra said: “We suspected honour killing when the police were first not allowed to talk to family members of the girl. When the girl’s sister told us about her return on December 31, we got a thread to investigate on the lines of honour killing…. Let us get postmortem report.” The police were collecting scientific evidence, he added.