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Shimla rape-murder: Himachal govt transfers 7 cops including IPS officer

Seven Himachal Pradesh police officers suspended over gang rape-murder of school girl that triggered violent protests in the Congress-ruled state

cities Updated: Jul 20, 2017 12:32 IST
Gaurav Bisht & Surender Sharma
Gaurav Bisht & Surender Sharma
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Himachal Pradesh,Shimla gangrape,Kothkai
Students take part in a rally demanding a fair probe into the rape and murder of teenage girl, in Shimla on Tuesday.(Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times)

The Himachal Pradesh government has transferred seven policemen including an IPS officer who led a controversial probe into the gang rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl, officials said on Thursday.

The transfer of IPS officer Zahur Haidar Zaidi, who led the special investigation team, came after widespread violence over the custodial death of one of the six arrested for the crime.

Zaidi, who was the inspector general (IG), southern range, has been transferred as IG welfare and administration at the police headquarters in Shimla.

The gangrape of the minor girl – named Gudiya by activists and people agitating for justice -- has rocked the poll-bound state where such crimes are uncommon.

The girl, a Class 10 student, went missing on her way home from school on July 4 and her naked body was found two days later with injury marks. Since then, her photos have gone viral on social media as hundreds of people have come out on the streets to protest in candlelight marches, silent processions and road blockades.

The state government bowed to increasing public pressure and transferred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after people pointed out alleged loopholes in the SIT findings.

Zaidi claimed to have cracked the case on July 13, but went on leave after people raised questions on the police theory.

Besides Zaidi, the other officers transferred late on Wednesday include SIT member and Shimla superintendent of police DW Negi and another SIT member Bhajan Dev Negi.

One of the accused, Nepalese national Suraj Singh, was allegedly strangled by another suspect, Rajendra Singh, during a scuffle inside the lock-up around 3am on Wednesday, according to police.

The incident sparked anger through the Himalayan state as people shouted slogans, clashed with police and set a police station on fire, demanding an overhaul of what protesters deem a shoddy probe.

The epicentre of the incident – Kotkhai, around 60 kilometres from Shimla – resembled a war zone as a mob of around 3,000 surrounded the police station before setting it on fire and injured several personnel. The police fired in the air to disperse the crowd but failed as protesters surrounded the living quarters of personnel.

The entire staff of Kotkhai police station, including the station house inspector, were suspended following the custodial death. All accused were allegedly kept in two cells instead of keeping them in separate enclosures.

Those arrested were different from the six men whose photos were being circulated on social media, and had also been temporarily posted on the official website of chief minister Virbhadra Singh. This raised further suspicion over the probe.

The outrage is also expected to singe the Virbhadra Singh government in elections scheduled for later this year as the opposition BJP is attempting to steer public anger against the government and police for going slow on the probe into the case.

Virbhadra, also the state’s home minister who is facing several cases of corruption, has come under criticism from even his own party men for the slow progress in the investigation.

Meanwhile, Shimla shut down on Thursday in response to a bandh called by the BJP to protest against the alleged failure of the government to properly investigate the rape and murder.

Most shops on the Mall Road and Lower Bazaar remained closed this morning. Shopkeepers said they feared violence as tempers are running high amongst protesters.

All shops, private business establishments were closed in Shimla and other prominent towns in the district.

Movement of vehicular traffic was hampered at various points in the state capital.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 12:29 IST