The two fathers are neighbours but couldn’t be further apart. Mithilesh Pal, a Dalit, is at home, alone, ill and grieving, after cremating his wife and 23-year-old son the same day. The other, Radhey Gupta, an OBC, is in a police station lock-up 8 km away along with his wife and daughter — for killing the 23-year-old by allegedly tying him to a charpoy and setting him on fire, to save his family’s “honour”.
On Sunday, Abhishank Pal (23), fondly called Monu, was killed by family members of Shivani Gupta, with whom he was reportedly in a relationship with, in what police said was an honour killing. Abhishank was on his way to the hospital where his mother Rambeti (56) was admitted when Shivani’s father and two associates caught him, tied to the charpoy and set him on fire. Five persons, including two women, are accused, and three have been arrested.
Abhishank was admitted to the same hospital as his mother, said Mithilesh’s younger brother Ajay Pal. “If you leave some parts of his face, his whole body had turned black. He was still alive and crying in pain so we rushed him to the district hospital where Rambeti was. When she got to know about Monu, she suffered a heart attack. We were taking her to Lucknow but she died on the way. Hours later, Monu was also referred to Lucknow and he, too, died on the way,” said Ajay.
In Bhadaicha village in Hardoi, Mithilesh is still coming to terms with the loss. His house is deserted and he was just discharged from the same hospital Tuesday after suffering a minor heart attack. A day after the two cremations, he barely speaks. His brother, Ajay said: “It is the hate other castes have for us.”
According to Ajay, Rambeti fell ill Saturday and was admitted to hospital. “Doctors referred her to Lucknow and we asked Monu to go home and bring some cash. But Radhey and others had different plans,” said Ajay, who drives a mini-bus.
“When Monu was returning with the money, around 1 am Sunday, he was stopped by Radhey, his neighbours Satyam Singh and his brother Shikhar Singh outside their house. They used derogatory language and when Monu tried to stop them, they assaulted him with rods and broke his limbs. Later, they poured petrol and set him on fire after locking him in a room. Village locals heard the noise and police were informed. He was admitted to the district hospital with more than 70 per cent burn injuries.”
This is also what the FIR, registered after Abhishank’s death, states. In it, Radhey Gupta and four others have been booked for murder, assault and breach of peace along with sections of the Atrocities Act.
At the Kotwali police station 8 km away, in a lock-up with a dozen others, is Radhey Gupta. He claimed he did not have children of his own and that he had adopted his niece Shivani decades ago.
“I was driven by anger and it all happened in the spur of the moment. Sometimes a man has to do something to save the dignity of his caste and family. I did the same. I do not know if I am proud of it or not,” he said.
His wife Daali Gupta (46) and 20-year-old Shivani Gupta, also co-accused in the murder, sit on chairs kept outside. Though police said Radhey confessed to killing Monu after he saw him with his niece, Daali still blamed Shivani and regretted the decision to adopt her around 17 years ago.
“She is the daughter of my brother. When she was around three years old, he and his wife came us and said that they are unable to raise her. As we did not have any child, we decided to adopt her. We sent her to school but did not know that she will show her true colours. In school, she started talking to Monu. Now years later, because of her, we are going to jail. She should be the one responsible. We are innocent,” she said.
Shivani said she has been beaten by Radhey and Daali on multiple occasions after they found out about Monu. They met in school, she said, and started talking to each other regularly.
“When my uncle and aunt got to know about Monu, they beat me up. I even stayed with my biological mother for around a week. When I returned, I was again beaten up. And after my intermediate, they did not let me study further. I was not allowed to go outside without their permission,” she said, showing a deep red scar on her face.
“On Saturday night, I wanted to meet Monu and I messaged him to come to my house. He came to the roof where we all slept. Monu and I then went downstairs but uncle woke up. Furious, my uncle and aunt and came to my room and caught us. Monu was beaten up and I was locked in a different room,” she said.
“I tried to stop them, I begged and cried but they did not listen to me. After all the beating, uncle and aunty poured petrol and Monu and burnt him alive.”
In their house in Bhadaicha, all that is left in the room where Abhishank was murdered are the charred remains of the wooden charpoy. The room was used as a storage for Radhey’s grocery shop nearby. Several cans of petrol and kerosene are still outside the room.
Additional SP (east) Gyananjay Singh said three accused have been arrested while police teams have been formed to nab village locals Satyam Singh and Shikhar Singh, who were also allegedly involved in the crime.
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