The unlikes: How an online relationship ended in tragedy

We trace the paths of a youth from a Muzaffarnagar village and a middle-aged mother of three.

Written by Milind Ghatwai , Pritha Chatterjee | Updated: April 27, 2014 1:53:21 pm
At Vinit’s house in Pachanda Khurd village in Muzaffarnagar. On the left is his father’s small shop, which also sells coupons for mobile phone recharges; (below) their Facebook accounts. Vinit and Jyoti got in touch more than two years ago. At Vinit’s house in Pachanda Khurd village in Muzaffarnagar. On the left is his father’s small shop, which also sells coupons for mobile phone recharges; (below) their Facebook accounts. Vinit and Jyoti got in touch more than two years ago.

A quiet youth from a Muzaffarnagar village of school dropouts and Facebook addicts who was trying to turn his life around. A middle-aged mother of three who had taught herself how to use her daughter’s laptop. MILIND GHATWAI in Jabalpur & PRITHA CHATTERJEE in Pachanda Khurd trace their paths, how these crossed on the Internet, and how it led to a tragic end.

A cramped house with 14 members of a joint family jostling for space and privacy with a couple of caged parrots and a dog is an unlikely setting for a love affair to blossom, much less to remain secret for long.

If a 22-year-old’s incoherent account recorded in his dying moments on a hospital bed is right, a story of love and betrayal began in this two-storey unremarkable house in Punjab Bank Colony, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, from where a Facebook friend began chatting with him more than two years ago.

Nearly a thousand kilometres away, in Pachanda Khurd village of Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, he was a loner among his extended family of 16. Privacy was a luxury even at night, when he and eight other cousins would spread cots out in the courtyard to sleep. His father’s grocery shop sold coupons for mobile charges but he had never owned a computer. Struggling to clear his Class XII — one of only three people in his family to pass Class X — he would instead spend hours on the phone.

What brought Jyoti Kori, 43, of Jabalpur and Vinit Kumar Singh, 22, of Muzaffarnagar together and then resulted in their deaths at Jabalpur’s Dhuandhar Falls, a spot known as a lovers’ haunt, is now being pieced together from his last words, from what the police say they have found, and from the dots their families are joining together.

Based on Vinit’s dying declaration, recorded by doctors on duty and later by policemen, investigators claim he met Jyoti for the first time on April 18, and then shot her and himself after realising that the woman he was in love with was nearly double his age, married and a mother of three, her eldest daughter being his age. Jyoti died on the spot, while Vinit succumbed to his injuries a few hours later at the Government Medical College.

It’s unclear if the 22-year-old mistook the profile picture of well-known TV actor Sanaya Irani on Jyoti’s Facebook page as her own or knew that she looked much different.

Police say he brought a country-made pistol along with him from home.

Jyoti, who had studied till Class XI, was the only woman in her family to have a Facebook account, though the youngsters all have one. It was opened for her by Luckymayuri, 22, her elder daughter, who is completing the last semester of her Computer Science course at a local private engineering college. She has another daughter, Sajal, 19, and a 12-year-old boy.

Jyoti’s husband Laxmiprasad, a senior clerk with the Madhya Pradesh Irrigation Department, says he neither has an account nor has an idea of how Facebook works. The 49-year-old, who leaves home on most days at 10 am and returns only by 9 pm, adds that he did not know if Jyoti was in touch with someone. “If she was, someone would have noticed it. We would have stopped her,” he says. The families of Laxmiprasad and his two brothers live together in the house.

Laxmiprasad chose the slightly unusual name for their first daughter because he thought she was lucky for him, having been born on his birthday. It was for Luckymayuri that he had bought a laptop two and a half years ago. “We have no space in the house so we bought a laptop instead of a desktop. She needed it for studies. I don’t know when my wife began using it or whether she knew how to,” he says.

Luckymayuri says she introduced her mother to the laptop six months after buying it and that she had learnt to type small sentences. The laptop was mostly at home, and Luckymayuri doesn’t know if her mother used it. In any case, the family adds, the laptop stopped working six months ago.

Jyoti did use an old mobile phone but it didn’t have an Internet connection, and Laxmiprasad contests the police theory that she and Vinit would talk to each other for hours. He says Jyoti did not spend much on recharging the prepaid connection. Even if she got only incoming calls, Laxmiprasad adds, family members would have noticed it.

Luckymayuri also insists that the Facebook account she created for her mother was deactivated soon after (she doesn’t know by whom) and does not know how it resurfaced. In the account she had started, her mother’s profile mentioned she was a mother of three children, Luckymayuri says. The account operative now has several posts of Hindi poetry, on love, agony and separation.

In Pachanda Khurd, 6 km from Muzaffarnagar town, Vinit’s single-storey house with its sprawling courtyard and haphazardly added rooms is typical of the other structures in this neighbourhood of 50-odd houses of the Kori caste, except for the shocked relatives milling around it these days. Vinit stayed at the house with his parents, three siblings and his father’s five brothers and their families — about 16 people in all. His two sisters are married.

Pointing to the rooms around the courtyard, Vinit’s uncle Baburam says that as the family grew, new accommodations were “cut out” to make space. Most of the boys, including Vinit, slept in the courtyard.

Vinit’s 54-year-old father Rajpal runs a small shop, where he sells grocery items, vegetables and tobacco products. Two years ago, Rajpal also started selling coupons for mobile phone recharges.

People in the family say Vinit and his 18-year-old brother Vinay were scared of their father. They were often at the receiving end of his anger and beatings when they failed their exams. As he lay dying, Vinit gave his uncles’ phone numbers to the police, and it was to them that the first calls came informing the family of what had happened.

Crouched next to the cot on which his son used to sleep, Rajpal barely talks these days. Struggling to understand his son’s death, he says: “The police say Vinit chatted with a woman online, but we do not own a laptop. None of us has gone to school and he was only the third son in our family to clear his Class X, so he knew some English. How do I know what he did on his phone?”

The two cyber cafes which had come up in the village didn’t last long, shutting down three years ago. Locals say there were hardly any takers. However, social networking is a different story. While most of the men of Vinit’s age in the village admit to failing multiple attempts to clear their Class X and XIIth exams, a majority are active on Facebook. Many also use the free messaging service Whatsapp on their phones.

Vinay says that while he does not have a Facebook profile, Vinit, their cousins and friends did. “Vinit was always reserved, he would hardly talk, but he would always be busy on his phone. I knew he was on Facebook and sometimes he would show me pictures. But he never told me about any girl or a woman he was friends with,” Vinay says.

Vinit bought his phone about six years ago from his own earnings. The Jabalpur police told the family they could not recover it.

Nokia C2-00, the model Vinit owned, is the most popular among the youths of the village. It has a discouragingly small screen but, as they tell you, it’s “cool” and it suffices. “We have got 3G Internet here for the past two years. Facebook is easy to access, we can even fill online forms on this phone and see our exam results. I access my Facebook account at least 10 times a day. My mother says I failed in my exams last year because of Facebook,” laughs Sachin Kumar, a friend of Vinit’s.

The youngsters say they use Facebook to share wallpapers of “cool messages” and “love messages”. Most also confess to having “online friends”. They add that while the girls from their village are not on social networking sites, it is not uncommon for them to be chatting with girls.

But even online, the wide consensus seems to be to find girls from the same caste. “We meet girls on Facebook, but usually we try to stick to our own caste. In the village, girls are different, they don’t talk openly, but online we feel more comfortable. Of course I have never chatted with any girl outside my caste,” Tejpal, another of Vinit’s friends, says.

Noticing the giggles around him, he amends, “We only chat, nothing else. Ask all of them, they all have friends online, they are just making fun of me.”

Vinit and Jyoti incidentally belonged to the same caste, Kori.

After one failed attempt last year, Vinit again sat for his Class XII boards this March. He had cleared his Class X in 2007 but, never a keen student, gave up studies after that. Recently, when he showed interest in resuming studies, his family was surprised, and delighted. “He started working in a dhaba as a waiter, and later learnt to make sweets at a halwai in the neighbourhood. Vinit and a couple of friends then started a small business of making sweets for functions. He would frequently travel to Haridwar to learn making special sweets,” Vinit’s maternal uncle Ompal says.

Cousin Sonu says that it was just when his business had started to take off that Vinit decided to return to studies. “He said he wanted a government job and had to study for that. Even though he continued with our sweets business, he said this was just ‘time pass’. He sat for two exams for Railways last year while preparing for his boards, but did not clear them,” his uncle Ompal says.

Till last year, Vinit travelled to Janta Inter College, about 2 km from Pachanda Khurd, where most of the boys of the neighbourhood study, in his first attempt to clear his Class XII. When he failed, he shifted to a private tutor in Khampur village about 10 km from home, for “English studies”. The family was only too happy.

Over the past two years he had also started travelling “looking for jobs”. So the family did not suspect anything when he left home on April 17 for what would be the last time, saying he was going to Delhi for “one of many” job interviews for two days. “He would always book his own tickets. I never saw them,” Vinay says.

Vinit’s Facebook profile says little about him, except that he was from Muzaffarnagar and studied at Janta Inter College. He had posted only a couple of pictures of his own, including one with superimposed orange-coloured glares. All his other pictures are wallpapers, including one showing a rose inside a golden heart, and another featuring a hand holding sunglasses with the message, ‘My style is what I like, not what others like’. In between, he inserted ‘Mr Vinit Vimaniya’. He also has frequent posts of Hindi poetry, beginning one of them with ‘Miss U . J.’ and another one with ‘Sirf tum hi ho j’.

His last profile picture has two toddlers kissing each other playfully, under the message “Some love one, some love two, I love one, that is you”.

Jyoti Kori, the friend from Jabalpur, “liked” this picture.

On April 17, the day before the two of them would be found dead, she left her home in Punjab Bank Colony saying she was going to meet her father Ramkumar Kori. He lives in a rented house in Adhartal, less than 5 km away.

The next morning Jyoti told Ramkumar she was going to see a “munh bola bhai (adopted brother)”. When she did not return till evening, he called her up twice but found her phone switched off.

Ramkumar assumed she had gone to one of their relatives’ homes for the night, while as far as her family was concerned, she was with her father. They came to know of her death only from the next day’s newspapers.

“I could not believe the news,” says Jyoti’s husband Laxmiprasad, who is not on talking terms with his father-in-law.

Jyoti’s father, who used to work in BSNL, has now lost all his children. While his 17-year-old son died in 1998 of meningitis, another daughter passed away in 2013. His wife had died in 2008.

“I wish I had asked Jyoti why she was going alone because normally she was accompanied by her 12-year-old son,” Ramkumar says.

The police claim to have recovered two train tickets, Muzaffarnagar-Delhi and Delhi-Jabalpur, from Vinit, and say he brought the firearm with which he shot Jyoti and himself along with him. Vinit and Jyoti had wounds on the left side of their chests, and appeared to have been shot from very close range, a doctor who examined them said.

The medical team found four SIM cards and Rs 440 in Vinit’s pocket.

Investigating Officer Sushmita Niyogi says they have found that Vinit and Jyoti were in constant touch, and that several calls had been exchanged between the two since he left Delhi for Jabalpur. Niyogi adds that the call detail records also corroborate Vinit’s last words.

A doctor who recorded the dying declaration says most of what Vinit said was inaudible, though he heard something like “Facebook se kaam chal raha tha (we were managing with Facebook) and “teen bachchon ki maa (the mother of three children)”.

“I am not very sure what Vinit said about the firing. I don’t remember him saying I first shot her and then myself,” the doctor told The Sunday Express.

Vinit’s family questions the police version. His father and uncles say neither he nor anyone in the family owns a gun nor has a licence. “Where will he get a gun? We are simple people. He only travelled to school about 2 km away till 2007, and started giving some exams in Delhi in the last few years,” uncle Baburam says.

In a December 23 Facebook post, Vinit had posted the picture of a gun. But friend Sachin says Vineet had downloaded the picture. Sachin himself had “liked” the picture, as had Jyoti. Police claim Vinit used this gun to shoot Jyoti and himself.

Baburam asks why the police have not “investigated” Jyoti’s family. “Is that not natural? We know Vinit did not have a gun and could not use one. We are sure there was a third person. The police have just blamed the whole thing on Vinit,” he says.

However, the Jabalpur police are not working on any other theory at the moment. After recording the statements of Laxmiprasad and Luckymayuri a day after the incident, they have not returned to Jyoti’s family members. Niyogi dismisses the doubts about the gun saying, “Maybe it was for self-protection. Guns are easily available in Muzaffarnagar.”

Says Jabalpur SP Harinarayanchari Mishra: “The case is closed for us. We have tied up all the ends. They spoke for nearly 300 times in the past 30-40 days. The woman used her daughter’s laptop initially before the relationship graduated to exchanging phone calls.”

Their doubts notwithstanding, Vinit’s family members may not pursue the matter either. “Jabalpur is about 1,000 km away. Who will go there every time to follow up the case? Let the postmortem report come, we will see,” uncle Ompal says.

Adds Baburam: “See, none of us is on the Internet, so how can we ever really know? We know this is not like our boy, but when we are not sure, why bring more shame to the family? He did travel frequently, and the Internet is so dangerous. How can we ever really know what happened between him and the Internet?”

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