More than a month after a female devotee of Dera Parmeshwar Dwar, situated in Punjab's Patiala district, died under mysterious circumstances at Rajindra Medical College and Hospital, Patiala, the police are yet to register an FIR in the case.
Ramanjeet Kaur (28), who hailed from Mehmoodpur village in neighbouring Kaithal district of Haryana, had died on April 22. According to her sister and brother, she was poisoned on the dera premises, about 25 km from the village.
"We found her vomiting at the dera gate. A devotee took her away to the hospital after the '108' ambulance never turned up," said dera manager Satnam Singh. The dera is located on the Patiala-Bhawanigarh highway, about 20 km from Patiala, the main station of the '108' ambulance service in the region.
"Thousands of devotees come here. We cannot account for all of them," said Satnam Singh, when asked why the dera authorities had not pursued the case with the police.
Ramanjeet had been a Parmeshwar Dwar disciple for over a decade and had even got dera head Baba Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwala's name tattooed on her arm. Baba Ranjit Singh is said to be close to the ruling SAD.
"Babaji is away to Delhi," the manager told HT on being pressed for the dera head's version.
As per the postmortem report, which was not even given to Ramanjeet's family, she died "due to consumption of some poison". The report, dated April 23, also observed symptoms of celphos poisoning. The hospital authorities, however, did not prepare a medico-legal report (MLR), which is referred to while probing an unnatural death. A doctor at the hospital stated that as per the procedure, the MLR was usually prepared only on the request of the family concerned.
The local Pasiana police station just has a daily diary report (DDR), based on the statement of Ramanjeet's 75-year-old illiterate mother, Inder Kaur.
As per the DDR, Inder Kaur SAID, "nobody is responsible for my daughter's death." The police recorded her statement and took her thumb impression immediately after the death at the hospital. A few days later, the police returned Ramanjeet's cell phone, with the entire data deleted.
The devotee's elder sister, Jaswinder Kaur, has now accused the dera head of killing Ramanjeet.
She shot off a letter on Monday to the Patiala city police station, seeking police protection and the registration of an FIR against Baba Ranjit Singh. Copies of the letter were sent to the Punjab director general of police (DGP) and the Patiala senior superintendent of police (SSP).
"Baba Ranjit Singh poisoned Ramanjeet on April 22 at the dera. Dera followers deliberately delayed taking her to the hospital. The body was handed over to the family the next day and we were made to cremate it under duress. Dera men did not let us go anywhere or speak to anyone till the cremation was over," said Jaswinder.
A petition in this regard was filed in the Punjab and Haryana high court. The court directed that the petitioner approach the authorities concern for protection.
When the local vernacular media reported the matter a few days after the death, the woman's two brothers and three sisters were summoned to the Samana tehsil DSP's office and allegedly made to sign a written statement claiming that dera followers had no role in the death. The statement was typed by the DSP's reader, said Sahib Singh, Ramanjeet's brother.
When contacted, deputy superintendent of police (DSP) SS Malhi admitted that a meeting with the woman's family took place, but claimed that there was no 'official' document in this regard.