Fifty-five year old V.N. Saxena travels some 200 kms of crowded, dust-filled road from Saharanpur to Delhi every month.
His destination is the Defence Colony police station where the murder case of his daughter is registered.
Here in the buzzing, indifferent police room, the father, armed with files, spends hours asking cops about the headway in the case. Police are considering switching the case of 26-year-old Shalini Saxena’s death from a murder to a suicide.
This is how police claim the BPO executive died on September 9, 2008, in her paying guest accommodation in Gautam Nagar in south Delhi:
Intent on suicide, the young woman ties one end of her cell phone charger to a table near her bed, lies down, loops the cord of the charger around her neck, and pushes the table with her leg. The “push” causes her to strangle herself.
The father says his daughter was murdered. Police say she killed herself because she was “lonely in the city.”
The night before, Shalini had sat on the same bed, chatting with her roommate (not named on request) and sharing a packet of noodles. Later she’d hummed along to a song she was listening to on FM radio, her Nokia mobile earphones plugged in her ears.
It was the roommate who discovered Saxena’s body the next day at 3 p.m. Finding the room locked from inside, she had used her own set of keys to unlock the door.
Saxena was lying face up in bed, blood oozing from the mouth.
Her body was cold to the touch, said the roommate, who called the police. The autopsy revealed Saxena had died at around 10 a.m.
Police say the crime scene initially did suggest it was a case of murder. Saxena was bleeding and there were injury marks on her neck. “Though we registered a case of murder, the autopsy report suggested it was suicide,” said a senior police officer who investigated the case. Police say there was no other outlet in the room from where the killer could have escaped. The women in the room adjacent to Saxena’s did not see anyone enter or leave, neither did they hear sounds of a scuffle.
No suicide note was found.
But Shalini’s family is not ready to buy the police’s theory, and neither are forensic experts.
“It is highly unlikely that someone can kill oneself by a mobile phone charger. I have never come across any such case,” a forensic expert at Safdarjung Hospital said, requesting anonymity.
“Police said my daughter committed suicide as she was depressed of living alone in a big city. There are many women who live on their own in Delhi, do all of them commit suicide?” asks a disconsolate V.N. Saxena, who had been looking for matrimonial alliances for his daughter when she died.
Saxena says Shalini had not revealed any signs of depression to the family.
“Why will she commit suicide? She had no reason to do that. She had a bright career.” The father alleges the crime scene suggested foul play.
“Her earphones were smashed and the table was broken. She was covered with a bed sheet. If she had killed herself, wouldn’t the bedsheet be crumpled? The murder was executed with precision. The killer did not leave any evidence behind,” he says.
Shalini had come to work in Delhi one and a half years before her death. Employed with the Gurgaon-based firm Global Vintage, she had completed her Masters in Computer Science from Khalsa College, Yamunanagar in Haryana. Police say all her colleagues were questioned in the case and cleared.
V.N. Saxena, chief manager at State Bank of India, Saharanpur, claims police are suppressing details of the case.
“I asked for her call details under the Right to Information Act (RTI), but they were not provided. The police are irked because I moved the High Court against them, demanding probe by an independent agency. They do not want to catch the culprit,” he says.
The probe is still with south Delhi police, who insist Shalini’s death was due to “depression,” an impression they attribute to her choice of pulp novels.
“We recovered occult books from her room. Her colleagues told us she was a recluse and hardly interacted with anyone. We recovered books titled- Maut ka Safar, Aakhri Safar from her room. She used to research ways to die,” a police officer said.
“If she had been a recluse, she would not have been staying in a PG. A night before her death she shared food with her roommate,” says Saxena, who has been making the rounds of the bureaucratic labyrinth in hope for justice.
“I even sought an appointment from the commissioner of police. I wanted to marry her off and hoped for a bright future for her,” says Saxena, his voice reduced to a whisper.
“No one wants to hear us.”