In Rajupur village in Moradabad, almost everyone knows where she lived. In life she was known to be cheerful and spirited, in death they know her as the one who was found “hanging from a tree” on Friday morning.
Some distance from her under-construction house, among other concrete two-floor buildings with often no wall paint, wails pierce the silence. The shock is yet to sink in. A crying relative asks another: “Rita’s face looks so beautiful even when lifeless, did you see?”
Inside, 19-year-old Rita Yadav’s body lies on the floor, covered with a white sheet. A few locals had found her hanging by her white dupatta from an over six-foot tree, her feet touching the ground and eyes half-open, at a farm near the house.
The police suspect it is a case of honour killing.
In the intervening night of Thursday-Friday, Rita went missing from her room while her grandmother Vidya (80) and uncle Hari (50-plus) slept. Rita’s father Rambir, who works in Himachal Pradesh, was away with the rest of her family.
Her family doesn’t understand as to how she was taken noiselessly to the tree. “She was stronger than her brother Sanjay; it must have taken five people to overpower her,” a woman relative claimed.
But beyond these basics, the narrative on the circumstances about the alleged murder pulls in contrary directions along caste lines. In a village of around 1,300 voters, there are around 400 Yadavs and only 150 Jatavs.
Sanjay said: “The police have arrested a local Jatav youth, Gautam, on my complaint. He had been harassing Rita for some months now.” He has also named another suspect, Nicky Yadav.
But the Jatavs contest the family’s version. “She got killed because of love. She and Gautam were known to each other… Gautam is innocent,” claimed Ramwati, a 40-year-old housewife.
The probe so far
A senior police investigator said the post-mortem report had ruled out rape, but Rita had internal injuries.
“She was killed and then hanged,” he said, adding that they suspect it to be a case of honour killing. “Gautam is sticking to his stand that he was in love with the girl and there was no reason for him to kill her.”