For the past few years, residents of Kami village in Sonepat district have either cut short or abstained completely from the ‘ghudchadi’ wedding ritual where the groom sits on a mare and performs a puja at a temple before leaving for the bride’s house.
The practice was watered down after the name of Devendra Kumar alias Leelu, also the prime accused in the abduction of Snapdeal executive Dipti Sarna, came up in an incident where a man was killed during the ‘ghudchadi’ ritual.
“During the ‘ghudchadi’ ceremony held three to four years ago, a young man who was dancing was shot and a child also sustained injuries on his face. Devendra’s name came up in connection with the case. The man sustained three bullet injuries and was also kicked into a drain thereafter. Devendra’s relatives left the village soon after the incident and settled in Gurgaon,” said Ramesh Singh, an elderly man from Kami village, adding that people have abstained from the ritual after the incident.
“It has been 10 to 12 years since Devendra left the village, but he visits sometimes. After the abduction case in Ghaziabad, we heaved a sigh of relief that he will be put behind bars for a long time,” he said.
Other villagers said those who still perform the ritual do a shorter version.
“Before the incident, the groom used to be taken on the mare through every street in the village. Now, if some people perform ghudchadi, they simply take the groom from his house to the nearest temple,” said Dharam Jeet Singh, another villager.
However, the police spokesperson to Sonepat superintendent of police Abhishek Garg and Sadar Kotwali station house officer Ajay Malik could not confirm the incident.
“The victim was the son of Devendra’s aunt. We will have to look up the records as the case is old and the files may have been moved to court,” Malik said.
Devendra’s crime record, made available to the media after his arrest on February 15 in the abduction case, mention three cases --- including one for murder, attempt to murder lodged at Sadar Kotwali in Sonepat in 2012.
“I don’t know how many cases he has against his name. Everyone wants him dead. What do I do? His father is bedridden and there is no hope for us at the moment. I have nothing more to speak about him (Devendra),” his mother said.
Locals say Devendra’s family, residing in a small house in the rear of the village, owns just one bigha of land.
“Earlier, he used to come to the school for sprinting and even performed well in wrestling. In his teenage, he fell into bad company and started committing petty crimes. His mother was happy when Devendra was born, but later confined herself to her home after hearing his cases,” said Pawan Singh, a guard at the village’s government primary school.
“He may be a criminal, but we never heard about him harassing or even looking at women or girls in the village. We heard about his crimes, but never about him being involved in a case related to women. This (abduction) is a first,” he said.
Surrounded by lush agricultural fields, Kami village is hardly two to four kilometres from Murthal on National Highway 1. Nearly two kms behind the village lies the Sandal Kalan railway station where Ghaziabad police believes Dipti was made to board the first passenger train from Panipat on the morning of February 12 after she was set free.
“Nearly 40,000 people come and go from the station every month. It is not possible to spot the victim as hundreds of people board the first train to New Delhi. We’ve only heard that the accused is from nearby Kami village,” said Mahabir Singh, station superintendent.