Saazish and chele. Conspiracy and henchmen. The two words echo across the village in Uttar Pradesh to which the Unnao victim and BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who she has accused of sexual assault, belong.
Amid the uncharacteristically quiet village, there were more policemen visible on the roads Monday than residents. And a day after the woman and her lawyer were critically injured and her two aunts killed after the car they were travelling in was hit by a truck on the highway, locals talk of a possible saazish (conspiracy) but only with caution. They say they constantly fear that words they speak might reach the ears of chele (henchmen) of the locally powerful Sengar.
Residents of the village speak of how they have heard that the woman’s mother had recently complained of threats, of how the number plates on the truck that hit her car were blacked out and of how her police escort had gone on leave. Most of all, they speak of how things between the woman’s family and Sengar are far from over.
With the bodies of the woman’s two aunts who died expected to reach the village soon, personnel from five police stations in the region have been called in for security along with the Station House Office. And about 70 km away in Lucknow, the woman’s mother sits on the floor of the King George’s Medical University (KGMU) Trauma Centre, waiting for doctors to give her updates on her daughter’s condition.
She has demanded a CBI enquiry into the accident and asserts that her resolve to ensure punishment for those involved has never been stronger. Visibly angry, she said, “Jab tak sab logan ka saza nahi hoi… Tabtak ka hum peeche nahi hateyebe… nahi apan jaan de diya…(I will not take a step back until all the guilty are punished…I am willing to die for it).”
She is at the hospital with her other three daughters and says that about 15 days ago, she was threatened by Sengar’s associates and had even complained to “officials” about it through their lawyer.
“Some of Sengar’s associates, including a relative, from the village threatened that if they can send my brother-in-law (whose complaint led to the FIR against Sengar after the accident) to jail then they will also ensure punishment for all of us. They asked us to settle the case but we did not relent and filed a complaint through our lawyer,” she told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, in the village, the woman’s cousin talks of “conspiracy”. “They left the village in their lawyer’s car about 10 am in the morning. We have heard that the escort provided to her was also on leave that day,” he said, adding, “The number plate on that truck was also painted…hard to say what happened there but there certainly appears to be a conspiracy.”
One of the woman’s neighbours looks around and walks into his house before speaking in a low voice, hidden from outside. “We have heard many things. Who is right, who is wrong, we do not want to get into it but we know that things will not end here. They will be worse that is why none wants to speak about it. The worst are his cheles (henchmen), who have nothing else to do and are ready to go the extra mile on their own,” he said.
According to him, the woman, her siblings and mother lived in this house. Her father had died days after she had accused Sengar of rape. Incidentally, Sengar’s brother Jai Deep Singh has been chargesheeted for her father’s murder by the CBI.
It is also outside his house where the police deployment is concentrated. The security force is sandwiched between her home — a decrepit, single-storey mud and brick house — and Sengar’s — a white, well plastered and painted palatial bungalow spread over several plots of land.
Hardly half a kilometre from here is the lawyer’s house. He, too, is in critical condition at KGMU. His family said he only told his wife that he was driving out of the village. “When I called his phone, someone else picked up and told me that he has been injured. Luckily, we have relatives in Rae Bareli, who rushed the spot and took him to hospital. My grandfather and uncles, went later,” said the younger of his two sons.
The lawyer’s mother said: “The job of a lawyer is advocacy. If there is no conspiracy then why was the truck’s number plate blacked out? He was just doing his job.”
She said she even tried to talk him out of taking up the controversial case but he always maintained that it was part of his job.
Earlier, state DGP OP Singh told reporters that a team has been formed to investigate the incident in detail and said that since some family members have alleged conspiracy and murder, the state government has decided that it would have no objection, if the woman’s mother or family demands a CBI probe.