The CBI’s suicide theory may have been revealed to the world just a day ago, but the murmurs had started in Katra Sadatgunj village – the site of the Badaun “gangrape and murder” case — over a month ago when the local edition of Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, quoting sources in the agency, asked in a headline: So did the two girls kill themselves?
Ask the villagers, the family of the two minor girls who died, the local police who reached the scene first, the key witness, the UP SIT that took over the case, the doctors who conducted the post-mortem and even the accused. The answer across the board — it’s extremely unlikely.
Pappu Yadav, the main accused, was away on Friday tilling his watermelon fields on the banks of the Ganges, along with his elder brother and another accused Urvesh. But everyone else in the village had a theory to show why the CBI was wrong, with the families of the victim and the accused pointing fingers at each other.
They also questioned some of the key points that the CBI has used to prop up the suicide angle: local police said the scene at the spot on May 28 did not suggest suicide; a member of the SIT said they never heard of any mobile phone recording that suggested intimacy between the main accused and one of the victims; a key witness said he did change his statement but claimed that was a minor variation; and doctors said their findings were not as inaccurate as they were made out to be.
Yet, the most interesting reaction to the CBI’s theory has come from Chhatrapal, the constable who is one of the accused in the case. He spent three months in jail, is out on bail, has lost his job and stands to gain the most from the CBI’s report.
But he still can’t believe it is a case of suicide.
”To be honest, the thought of suicide did not strike me,” he said. “Neither the girls’ family nor Pappu Yadav (the main accused) told us anything that we could remotely link to a possible suicide. Till midnight we were around the mango tree on which the girls were found hanging the next day, and there was no sign of the activity that would be required for such an elaborate plan.”
Yet, Chhatrapal, who had another four years of service left, added that he has appealed to the DIG in Bareilli to reinstate him, and hoped that the CBI’s report would bring good news. “It takes years to build a career and reputation. I have daughters the same age as the girls, I just hope the CBI’s conclusion, whatever it is, brings us some luck,” he said.
Another villager, Veerpal, whose fields are near the mango tree and who was among the first to go to the home of the accused to search for the girls, said he was “shocked” at the suicide theory. “Here, even if a twig falls at night it seems like a loud noise, how is it that the girls hoisted themselves up the tree and committed suicide and none of us woke up?” he asked.
Veerpal and two other villagers, Vijay Singh and Ram Saran, denied being shown any mobile phone recording by the girls’ family members as the CBI has claimed in its report.
However, they added, there was a video recording that the CBI played in the village “a few days before Dhanteras”.
According to the father of the younger of the two cousins who died, it was a clipping of an old street play during which a brawl broke out between two boys. “It (the play) was an old folklore where the male protagonist commits suicide by hanging. They told me the video was shot on my phone which they claimed my niece had been using. It could have been one of the kids, but I don’t know how that was related to the investigation,” he said.
A member of the SIT constituted by UP Police told The Indian Express, “I am aware that all statements have been recorded by CBI but this is one I am eagerly awaiting. None of the people who we questioned repeatedly made such a claim (of the recording), and it is largely these very people who the CBI roped in, on the basis of our investigations.”
The SIT member added that his team “was starting to develop the honour killing and possible family dispute theories”, when the CBI took over.
”When the SIT was formed we realised the matter had been politicised. The victim’s family was of the dominant caste, and in the drama that ensued, everybody of their caste had gone by their version,” he said.
The officer added that when the SIT started uncovering “the first discrepancies in the eyewitness’ and family’s version” state DGP AL Banerjee suggested, in June, that the family’s role was being probed.
According to the SIT’s investigations, the branches of the mango tree were around 8-10ft high, and the “manner of hanging” did not suggest suicide, the officer said. “The chappals of both the girls was neatly aligned by their bodies, and there was no rock or branch the girls would have needed to hoist themselves up. Two minors hanging like that… we suspected a homicide,” he said.
Awadesh Yadav, at 22 the eldest of the three accused brothers, said that it was “hard to believe” that his younger brother would have driven the “girls to suicide”.
”On the night of May 27, after two men from the village first came to our house to look for the girls, Pappu told us that he had some kind of a fight with Nazru (the witness). He was worried Nazru would hurt the girls… it looked like they (Pappu and the elder girl) had been friends for sometime. So why would they be so ashamed of this friendship? We scolded him for playing the fool and thought that was the end of it,” he said.
Awadesh added that even though “our reputation has been damaged far beyond what multiple lives can undo”, they would get justice only when the real culprits were found. “The girls were wronged more than us. We suspect their family had a definite role to play.”
Awadesh’s father, Veerpal, questioned the CBI’s theory. “Pappu told us and the police that he loved the girl, and she also loved him. Before she killed herself would she not have told him once?” he asked.
Nazru, the witness, acknowledged that he had “made slight changes” in his statement to his family when he saw the girls. “I feared that if I told them that I saw only Pappu with the girls, they would not believe me – and what if the girls lied? So I said I saw four other men with Pappu to make the story more believable,” he admitted.
Scared of their reaction, Nazru had also initially told the girls’ family that there were robbers in the field, where he had found Pappu and the elder girl, and called for a search party. “Nazru then told us that he had been trying to tell us that the girls had gone with Pappu. God knows why he lied,” the father of the younger girl said.
Nazru said he usually spent most of the evenings at the cousins’ homes but added that now his “elder brothers” have asked him to “stay away” till the truth comes out.
One of the three doctors who conducted the original post-mortem in Badaun said “contrary to what is being made out”, their findings did not suggest any external injuries. The cause of death in the original report was “asphyxia from ante-mortem hanging” and the doctors had said the “perineal findings were suggestive of rape”. “Whether the hanging was homicidal or suicidal is a matter of investigation. We thought we had genital findings which indicated forced penetration but we have been told forensic lab reports have found no male DNA. Let us see the closure report before we comment,” the doctor said.
Srilata, classmate of the younger cousin, said she had spoken to the girls a day before they went missing. “My friend was so bold and fierce. She was the shortest in our class and still she was so sharp. It is absurd she would be scared,” she said.
Family members of the girls said they would appeal to the higher courts if the CBI filed a report suggesting suicide.”We are being made to look like liars on small points, when the real accused have been released. We have recounted the incident so many times, we forget minor things and people paint them as discrepancies.”
His younger brother said the theory of suicide was “laughable”. “Forget everything else, if our girls had to kill themselves, even assuming the absurd theory that they wanted to do it together, why would they do so in the dead of night at 2am in the fields? Why wouldn’t they hang themselves in the privacy of their home?”