The nondescript Ghasera village in Nuh town of Mewat, 45 km south-west of Gurgaon, has an eerie quiet for the past five days. Residents of the village that was once visited by Mahatma Gandhi want to conceal something which is “unprecedented” for them.
The uneasiness in the air is palpable since Saturday, when the body of a 15-year-old girl (who was believed to have committed suicide) was exhumed after her parents alleged that she was gangraped and killed by two local youths, one of whom is the nephew of the 40-year-old sarpanch (village head) Ashraf Ali.
Before this infamy, the village of 2,200 houses had little claim to fame -- except the time when Mahatma Gandhi visited it soon after Independence to urge Meo Muslims to not migrate to Pakistan. That visit gave the village its unofficial name-- Ghandhi Gram Ghasera.
The girl was found hanging from an iron hook just behind her three-room, windowless, brick and mud house on Friday morning.
It was assumed that she committed suicide and the body was buried the same day. However, later, her uncle, a government employee posted in Faridabad, approached the police and alleged that she was kidnapped, gangraped and killed by the youths “who enjoy village head Ashraf Ali’s patronage”. Following the complaint, the body was exhumed on Saturday for an autopsy. After the examination, it was buried again on Saturday evening.
“Had it been only about rape, we would not have talked about it for the fear of social stigma. But my daughter was murdered. I will not back off till we get justice,” said the girl’s father, who works as a labourer. The girl was the eldest of his six children.
Her uncle said, “I came here on Saturday and asked my brother to get the case investigated.” He is the only educated person in the clan.
An FIR was lodged against the two accused under IPC sections 302 (murder), 201 (concealing evidence) and 376D (gangrape) and Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The autopsy report has confirmed that she died of strangulation. The rape charges will be ascertained only after the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), where her viscera sample was sent for testing, sends a report, the police said.
“The sarpanch has been booked under Section 202 of the IPC for intentionally not giving information of offence despite being an elected representative,” said Sanjay Kumar, station house officer, Nuh police station.
While the three accused -- village head Ashraf Ali, his nephew Adil (18) and Akram (20) -- remain at large, two prominent rival politicians of the region have jumped into the issue.
Chaudhary Zakir Hussain, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MLA from Nuh, is backing the girl’s family. Another local politician, Chaudhary Aftab Ahmad, a minister in the previous Congress-led Haryana government, is also active in the case. Locals alleged he is favouring the accused.
Both leaders have met Mewat’s senior superintendent of police (SSP) Deepak Gahlawat with their versions.
Adil has previously served a two-year jail term for theft and robbery, the police said. He is the son of sarpanch Ashraf Ali’s brother Alim. Adil’s father works with the sarpanch, who has the backing of the Congress.
Adil’s father rubbished all charges, terming it a conspiracy by political opponents.
“It is a game plan to defame my brother and my family,” he said.
Locals said the last murder that took place in the village was in 2000. Ten years prior to that, sarpanch Ashraf Ali’s brother was killed.
“We are poor people and make ends meet by working as labourers. We have never seen such a heinous crime,” said Sarwan Kumar, who has been running a garment shop in front of the girl’s house for the past 20 years.
Of the 20,000 residents in the village, most men work as labourers. They are engaged as truck loaders and drivers. Some families own patches of land as well.
The families of the accused and the girl are related and live at a distance of 500 metres from each other near Holi Chowk.
While the girl’s family is running from pillar to post claiming that their daughter was gangraped and killed, those backing the accused have question their claims. They are asking why the girl’s family buried her without raising any doubt?
Some even cast a doubt on the family.
“She was killed for sure. But who killed her is a mystery. Why did they bury her initially?” wondered Ved Prakash, a shopkeeper.
“We are trying to trace the three accused. We can reach any conclusion only after they are arrested,” SSP Deepak Gahlawat said.
While both sides put forth different theories, justice eludes the girl, whose body was buried, exhumed and buried again.