A few years ago, when she was still a minor, Monika Yadav’s parents told her they had found a boy for her and it was time she agreed to marriage — like other girls her age in Rajgarh, a district in Madhya Pradesh known for child marriages. Monika, a good student who had represented Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Biaora, in the 62nd National School Games in cricket in Class 11, stood her ground because she wanted to study further and work.
By then, Yadav had already been away from home for five years for studies, moving first to Narsinghgarh and then Biaora, both in Rajgarh district. Her village Sanwasi, with 2,000-odd people, only has one primary school.
Just after her arrest, it was neigbours who told Yadav’s illiterate parents, Hiralal and Kaushalya, that their 19-year-old, the younger of their two children, had been arrested by the Indore police in the ‘honey trap case’ that has been making news in Madhya Pradesh since last month — with rumours, more than facts, claiming a large web involving crores of rupees as well as politicians, bureaucrats and senior police officers.
The Congress even claimed a plot against its MLAs, to pull down its precariously poised government in the state.
While police have told court there could be many “victims”, except for one person, no one has filed a complaint against the six accused, of whom Yadav is the youngest.
Four days after Yadav’s arrest, Hiralal filed a human trafficking complaint against three of the accused.
Yadav’s family of four lives in a brick house down a kuchcha lane in Sanwasi. The dimly lit structure has a tin roof, a few plastic chairs lie around, and some clothes hang on its decaying walls. In a corner, produce from the fields is kept in a neat pile.
The parents say Yadav told them in June that she was moving to Bhopal, about 90 km away, to pursue graduation. She came home twice after that, including for Raksha Bandhan, the parents say. While they noticed she had on new clothes and cash, they say they took her word that “Didi ka hai… didi ne diya hai (Didi has given).”
By ‘Didi’ she meant Aarti Dayal, allegedly one of the main conspirators in the case. Yadav’s parents say Dayal had come to their house once, promising to fund their daughter’s education as well as employ her in her Bhopal NGO.
The case broke on September 17 when an Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) Superintending Engineer filed a complaint at the Palasia Police Station alleging that Dayal had demanded Rs 3 crore from him, later reducing it to Rs 2 crore, threatening to circulate a video clip of him in a compromising position. The 60-year-old claimed Dayal was always accompanied by a young assistant when she met him, and that she had initially asked him to find a job for the girl. He named the girl as Seema Soni (police believe this was Yadav), and admitted having a fling with her.
Police arrested Dayal and Yadav soon after, along with Dayal’s driver. Originally from Chhatarpur, Dayal, 29, shifted to Bhopal’s Sagar Landmark Colony a year ago, and had told neighbours she ran an NGO.
The Indore police next roped in the anti-terror squad and their Bhopal counterparts, and went on to arrest Shweta Vijay Jain, 39, from a colony near Dayal’s, Shweta Swapnil Jain, 48, and Barkha Soni, 34, all from Bhopal. Barkha’s husband Amit used to be an office-bearer of the Congress’s IT cell, while Shweta Vijay was once associated with the BJP and had unsuccessfully sought a party ticket from her native Sagar. Police claimed to have seized Rs 14.17 lakh from Shweta Vijay’s house. Shweta Swapnil originally hails from Jaipur.
Of the six, only Yadav and the driver have humble origins. Both the Shwetas and Dayal live in upscale colonies in Bhopal.
Police claimed to have seized laptops and mobile phones from the accused, and recovered hundreds of clips of men in compromising positions, including known names. Police also claimed that the racket flourished under the former BJP government, explaining some of their zealousness.
However, with no more complainants, police don’t have much to go on. While speculation has been rife, and photos as well as videos have been doing the rounds, so far its best lead is that NGOs run by two of the accused seem to have benefited from their “connections” in the bureaucracy. Rumours further swirled when the government changed two chiefs within eight days of a Special Investigation Team set up to probe the case, after the BJP sought a CBI investigation. The SIT’s brief incidentally is only to look into the Superintending Engineer’s case.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Indore, Ruchivardhan Mishra, the only police official who has remained unchanged, did not respond to calls. The new SIT chief, Rajendra Kumar, has avoided media from day one. Not just police even government prosecutors are not ready to speak on the case.
A Congress leader says police had been told to “go slow” to not divert attention from the Kamal Nath government’s first investor summit — the three-day Magnificent MP that ended on Friday.
Advocates Dharmendra Gurjar and Vivek Chaudhary, who represent Shweta Vijay and Shweta Swapnil respectively, say police have accused their clients falsely, despite the fact that they were not named in the FIR and nothing had been found from them. Chaudhary says Shweta Swapnil was only arrested because “her name is similar to Shweta Vijay”. “You can’t arrest someone on the basis of mere doubt. If police have recovered videos and extortion details, they should name the victims and file a case,” he says.
Adds Gurjar, “It’s all imaginary that they ran a racket in the guise of an NGO. Let one person come forward and say he was trapped or asked to shell out money.”
Former Congress IT cell office-bearer and government contractor Amit Soni, who remained missing for several days after his wife Barkha’s arrest, claims police have not even told him why they had taken her to Indore. Denying earning government contracts through extortion, Soni says his total turnover was hardly Rs 1 crore and he has been getting work for years.
Yadav’s father Hiralal now wishes he had married her off as he had wanted to. “She had told me, ‘Mera jeevan mat kharab karo (Don’t ruin my life)’… I don’t how she got trapped,” he says, breaking down.
Many in the village agree that Yadav could be an unsuspecting victim. Sarpanch Indar Singh, who met her in custody, says she told them she had been sent to the IMC Superintending Engineer with the promise of a job. He says she had no idea when the video of her with the engineer was made and that she herself was blackmailed into continuing liaisons with the engineer and others on the basis of it.
Ironically, adds the sarpanch, one of the reasons Yadav stepped out of her home and village was to help Hiralal out with a land dispute; he turned to his daughter as she was educated, unlike him.
Singh claims as she took her family’s case all the way to Bhopal, the cloistered girls of Sanwasi came to see Yadav as a role model. Till she intervened, warning a few who wanted to follow in her footsteps.