Bhanwari Devi murder: Focus on close-knit  Bishnoi community after Indra’s arrest
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Bhanwari Devi murder: Focus on close-knit Bishnoi community after Indra’s arrest

Police say the Bishnoi community in Nemawar area of Madhya Pradesh supported Indira when she was on the run. The CBI has been given a list of people who helped her.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2017 20:56 IST
Ranjan and Punya Priya Mitra
Ranjan and Punya Priya Mitra
Hindustan Times, Bhopal/Dewas
Indira Bishnoi,Bhanwari Devi murder,Rajasthan
Bhanwari Devi, a nurse, was abducted in September 2011 and her burnt remains found in January next year.(HT file photo)

Indira Bishnoi, an accused in the sensational Bhanwari Devi murder case, seemed to have the support of her community as she dodged police for six years before her arrest on Friday.

Indra was arrested by a Rajasthan ATS team from an ashram in Nemawar in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas. Before moving to the ashram, she was staying with a family in Nemawar area, which has a tightly knit community of some 50 Bishnoi families that migrated from Rajasthan more than 50 years ago.

“Indira’s father was an influential figure in the community and had connections everywhere, so even though she was a fugitive, she received all the support from the Bishnois,” Rajasthan anti-terrorism squad SP Vikas Kumar told HT.

They had handed over Indra to the CBI and also a list of people who helped her during her stay in Madhya Pradesh, the ATS superintendent of police said.

Bishnois are members of a Hindu sect that is strictly vegetarian and bans killing of animals and felling of trees. The community that shuns caste name was founded in Rajasthan’s Bikaner and is scattered in Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The murder of the 36-year-old nurse in neighbouring Rajasthan had rocked the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government.

Sixteen people, including former minister Mahipal Singh Maderna and Indra’s bother Malkhan Singh, a former Congress MLA, are in jail for Devi’s murder being probed by the CBI.

Around 18 months ago, the ATS got to know that Indra was moving in and around Nemawar but she managed to evade them, Kumar said.

She kept herself informed of the developments in the case and her business interests in Rajasthan through intermediaries and shunned cellphones to avoid detection. Indra will be in CBI remand for a week.

Before Indra moved to the ashram at Nagar Ghat seven months ago, she stayed in the house of a Parashar family, Dewas police sources said.

While the Parashars lived in Harda, the mother of the head of the family lived in Nagar Ghat. Indra stayed with her in the family home and shifted to the ashram when the woman died seven months ago.

At the ashram, Indra lived under an assumed name -- Geeta Devi.

The Rajasthan ATS was keeping a watch on her for five months. Several teams moved around in Harda and Dewas disguised as businessmen from Rajasthan. They went door-to-door selling handicrafts to collect information.

And on Friday they tasted success.

But the local police and the ATS differ on whether Indra underwent a plastic surgery to escape arrest.

Nemawar inspector Toor Singh Dawar said Indra confessed to the ATS team she had undergone a plastic surgery.

“The photo of Indra Bishnoi the ATS team was carrying didn’t match with that of the accused arrested. During initial interrogation she told the ATS team she had undergone a plastic surgery to change her face,” Dawar told HT on Sunday morning.

Dawar said he didn’t have the details and the information was passed on to him by an ATS member.

“I don’t think she had any plastic surgery done,” ATS’s Kumar told HT over the phone. The team had some difficulty in matching the photos because the photograph they had of Indra was seven years old and in all these years her appearance had changed, he said.

The murder

Bhanwari Devi’s murder is a tale of blackmail, political rivalry and revenge.

A trained mid-wife, Devi was abducted from Jodhpur’s Bilara area on September 1, 2011. Her husband Amarchand alleged she was abducted on the orders of Maderna, who was then Rajasthan’s minister for water.

According to the charge sheet filed by the CBI in a Jodhpur court, Devi was in a relationship with Malkhan, who fathered her youngest child, and was constantly demanding money from him.

Indra wanted her brother Malkhan to be a minister and asked Devi to make a sex tape with Maderna, her brother’s rival, the CBI said.

Instead of handing over the tape to Indra, Devi began blackmailing Maderna as well. Malkhan, the CBI said, stole the CD from Devi’s house and distributed copies to journalists.

Maderna, whose reputation took a beating after the sex tape became public, joined hands with Malkhan and they plotted to kill Bhanwari with the help of hired killers, the charge sheet said.

Devi’s burnt remains were found in Jaloda village near Jodhpur in January 2012.

(With inputs from Rajneet Gupta in Dewas)

First Published: Jun 04, 2017 14:09 IST