The Ahmedabad (rural) police on Saturday arrested the prime accused in the murder of a 25-year-old Dalit man by the upper caste family members of his wife. Dashrathsinh Zala was detained on Saturday for the murder of his son-in-law Haresh Solanki.
Of the eight persons accused in the murder of Haresh, police have arrested seven till now. One Jaydipsinh Zala is absconding and the slain youth’s wife, Urmila, who is two months pregnant, continues to be missing.
Haresh was allegedly hacked to death by eight men outside Urmila’s house at Varmor village of Ahmedabad district in the presence of a 181 women’s helpline team on Monday evening. The Abhayam team was attempting to negotiate with her family who had taken away Urmila, to send her back with Haresh. They were acting on a distress call made by Haresh.
After the murder, the entire family fled the village before a police team could arrive at the spot.
“We are interrogating Dashrathsinh and have deployed four teams, comprising of eight to 10 members in each of the special operations group (SOG), parole furlough squad, local police (of Mandal police station) and LCB (local crime branch) to look for the missing woman and investigate the case,” RV Asari, Superintendent of Police, Ahmedabad (Rural) said.
“While Dashrathsinh initially denied knowing the whereabouts of his daughter (Urmila), he subsequently confessed that she is safe and alive. We expect to get more details from him.”
PD Manvar, deputy SP, SC/ST Cell, Ahmedabad Rural added, “Search is on for the girl. While we await leads about her location, Dashrathsinh himself has said that she is alive and we need not worry.”
Elaborating on the arrests made until now, a police official, said three arrests were made on the afternoon of July 10 (Wednesday) – Indrajitsinh Zala, Hasmukhsinh Zala and Harishchandrasinh Zala. Indrajitsinh is the son of the main accused (Dashrathsinh) while Hasmukhsinh is Dashrathsinh’s brother. “We received a tipoff that the two were leaving in a car at Detroj. They were apprehended by Detroj police,” the official said. “Meanwhile, Mandal police received information on the whereabouts of Harishchandrasinh, a distant relative of the main accused, following which we arrested him.”
He added, “Ajaysinh Zala, another brother of the main accused, and two other accused persons who are relatives of Dashrathsinh – Anupsinh Zala and Parbatsinh Zala – were also arrested near Dekavada village near Detroj, where they were hiding. The three were arrested on the evening of July 11 (Thursday). At present, Hasmukhsinh’s son – Jaydipsinh Zala – is absconding.”
Apart from arresting the accused, the police have also initiated action against the Abhayam team. Ahmedabad Rural SP Asari said the woman police constable, Arpita Lilabhai, who was part of the rescue team, was suspended two days ago. “Prima facie, we found her negligent in her duties,” he said. “It was a sensitive case from the start and she should have called for back-up much earlier. She took it casually. A primary inquiry has been initiated against her.”
The police has also submitted a report to the chief officer of the 181 Abhayam helpline, regarding the emergency services counsellor Bhavika Bhagora. “The Abhayam helpline is for women and addressing their issues. The fact that the call made that day by the victim, Haresh, who was a male, was responded to and acted upon and to further have him sitting in the rescue vehicle, was a breach of procedure. We have reported the same to the concerned authority,” Asari said.
Falguni Patel, project coordinator at Abhayam, clarified, “If we receive third-party calls from a male, notifying us of a woman in distress, we attend to it.” Patel confirmed that they had received the police’s report and that Bhagora had not been reporting to duty since after the incident on Monday. “Any further decision on the report received shall be taken by our human resource department,” Patel said.
The counsellors working with Abhayam are recruited on a contractual basis by the service provider, GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute, while the police constables are deputed through the Home Department of the state government.
Bhagora, who has been working as a counsellor with 181 for the past three years, was the one who registered the FIR at Mandal police station at approximately 2 am on Tuesday, nearly six hours after Haresh was murdered, the Abhayam team attacked and the team’s rescue van vandalised.