Himachal rape case: One of the six accused dies in police custody
Even as public outrage in the Kotkhai rape and murder case refuses to die down, one of the six arrested in the crime, identified as Surat Singh, died in police custody in Kotkhai on Wednesday morning.
On July 13, police had claimed a breakthrough in the rape and murder of a minor school girl whose naked body was found in isolated woods in Kotkhai tehsil’s Halaila village. The six accused were identified as Ashish Chauhan (29), Rajinder Singh (32) of Sharaal village, Subash Singh Bisht (42) of Pauri Garhwal, Surat Singh (29) of Nepal, Lok Jan (19) of Nepal and Deepak (38) of Garhwal. Bisht is a priest in a temple at Pauri Garhwal. They were produced before a court in Theog and sent to seven-day police remand.
All the six arrested were kept in police custody in Kotkhai. The police is tight-lipped over the matter but sources have confirmed to Hindustan Times that Singh, a Nepalese national, died due to “strangulation”. His body is being brought to IGMC, Shimla, for postmortem.
“Surat Singh has died,” confirmed Shimla superintendent of police (SP) DW Negi.
Succumbing to public pressure, the Himachal government on Friday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case that has seen massive public outrage with a mob vandalising police vehicles outside the Theog police station. Calling the six arrests an “eyewash”, the crowd was demanding a CBI probe.
Unprecedented scenes are being witnessed in Himachal, with people thronging to the Mall Road in Shimla demanding accountability on part of the government. Locals even threw stones at the Kotkhai police station on Wednesday.
The entire staff of the Kotkhai thana, including the SHO, has been suspended following this death in custody. Sources say the SHO had kept all the six accused in two cells instead of keeping them in separate cells. The police allege that Surat Singh was killed in a scuffle with the other accused in his cell.
Meanwhile, protests continued to rock upper Himachal on Wednesday with protesters stooping traffic at various places on the way to Kotkhai. Seeking justice for the victim, Gudiya, the protesters alleged that the six arrests are a cover-up and the real accused have gone scot-free.