Bachchi mar gayi (The girl is dead).
This cryptic message on the phone from Varanasi to Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh might provide some leads in the multi-agency investigation into the bomb blast in this temple town last Tuesday.
Investigators are examining whether the message was some kind of a code relating to the blast or a genuine expression of grief. The call was made by Gita Pandey, to Aftab, a motor mechanic in Ballia, a few minutes after the blast that killed a toddler on the spot and injured nearly 40 people, police sources told HT on Monday.
Gita Pandey's daughter Gauri, about whom she seems to have been speaking, however, did not die but spent five days in a Varanasi orphanage.
Strangely, Gita, a domestic help, and Nilesh, a security guard in the temple town, left Varanasi for Ballia, where the hail from, soon after the blast. It seems they did not search for for Gauri or approached the police for help.
The landlord of the house where Gita and Nilesh stayed in Varanasi on Saturday identified the little girl as the Pandeys' daughter, Gauri. When the landlord called Gita and Nilesh in Ballia, they denied that the abandoned girl was their daughter, who they claimed had died of food poisoning in a Varanasi hospital.
All this was enough for the police to detain the couple in Ballia on Sunday and bring them to Varanasi for further questioning. Investigations revealed that Gita called Aftab in Ballia just after the blast to say, "The girl is dead".
Varanasi SP Vijay Bhushan said, "We are investigating the phone call made to Aftab by Gita but prima facie there seems to be no direct connection between Gita and Nilesh Pandey and the blast."
Investigators are examining the possibility of locals being hired by terror operatives as couriers on the day of the blast.