In a span of 24 hours, bodies of two women were found murdered in toilets of running trains in separate incidents in Assam, officials confirmed on Wednesday, even as the similarities in the killings triggered sensation and demands of immediate justice.
Officials said that the body of Lalima Devi (48), a resident of Dibrugarh district, was recovered from a washroom in the Avadh Assam Express, which runs between Assam and Rajasthan, in Mariani station in Jorhat district at around 2.20pm on Wednesday afternoon while the body of Radha Kumari (21), a resident of Sivasagar district, was found at Simaluguri station in Sivasagar district at around 9.40am on Tuesday from a washroom of a local inter-city train.
In both the cases, traditional towels (gamusa) was found around the neck of victims and marks on the neck have led police to claim that prima facie both the victims appear to be strangulated to death. Although sections of the local press have suggested theories of sexual assault and then murder, police did not confirm to The Indian Express whether or not sexual assault happened.
Devi, from the preliminary information available with police, was scheduled to travel from Dibrugarh to Bihar and had boarded the train in the morning. In Jorhat, a railway police officer said that a gamusa was found around the neck of the Devi.
Kumari was a student of the Assam Agriculture University in Jorhat and was on the way to meet a relative in Golaghat, according to people close to the family. She was raised by her mother — who saw her off at the station — after the death of her father around a decade back.
On being asked about sexual assault, Sivasagar district superintendent of police, Subodh Sonowal, said, “I cannot say that. The doctors will say after post-mortem. Let the report come.”
A senior officer of the railway police in Sivasagar, “The killing of Radha Kumari happened within 20-25 minutes. The woman had boarded in Sivasagar and we found the body at Simaluguri station — the running time is around 20 minutes. Within that time the incident happened. Prima facie, it appeared she was strangulated — we found a gamusa around her neck.”
“I saw her off at the station at around 8.30am. Then later I was informed from Simaluguri that my daughter is no more,” Kumari’s mother Tara Devi told a local TV channel. In a video grab, she is seen deliriously telling the body of her daughter, “You had so many dreams… how did this happen…who killed you?”
Meanwhile, the police has begun intensive investigations to solve the two murders while administration is taking steps to ensure the safety of women travellers in trains. Assam police has constituted an SIT to enquire into Kumari’s murder and additional director general of police, RP Meena, will oversee the investigations.
Pallav Gopal Jha, deputy commissioner of Sivasagar district, who met Kumari’s family on Wednesday, said, “Its a very tragic incident and we have taken it up very seriously. The girl belongs to a financially weak family and the mother has struggled a lot to raise the children. She was the eldest child. The government has sanctioned a compensatory amount of Rs 5 lakh which will be reaching them soon.”
He added that on Wednesday evening a series of meetings were lined up which will see participation from the police and other security forces and railway officials and discussions will be held regarding what steps could be taken to ensure the safety of people at railways stations.
When asked about reports that CCTV cameras are not placed at the Sivasagar station, Jha said that these points would be discussed in the meetings and the administration will find out whether or not CCTVs are there or if they are, then working or not.