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Kotkhai gangrape-murder: Citizens take to the streets demanding justice for Gudiya

Suraj Singh, one of the six suspects arrested for the gangrape and murder of the 16-year-old girl, was allegedly strangled by another suspect, Rajendra Singh.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2017 10:45 IST
Surender Sharma
Surender Sharma
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Kotkhai gangrape-murder,justice for Gudiya,Crimes against women
Protestors taking out a procession against the rape and murder of a Kotkhai girl, on the Mall Road in Shimla on Thursday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

Unprecedented protests rocked the Himachal capital on Thursday with political parties and civil society groups joining hands to agitate against the murder and rape of a schoolgirl in Kotkhai earlier this month, followed by the custodial death of an accused on Wednesday.

Suraj Singh, one of the six suspects arrested for the gangrape and murder of the 16-year-old girl, was allegedly strangled by another suspect, Rajendra Singh, during a scuffle at the Kotkhai police station on Tuesday night.

Traffic was paralysed on most of the arterial roads between 11 am and 3 pm due to dharnas by the agitators, and blockades put up by the police to prevent them from reaching the Himachal Pradesh secretariat.

BJP workers laid siege to the secretariat for nearly two hours in the afternoon, prompting the staff to lock all gates of the building from inside. Before reaching the secretariat, they also protested at Victory tunnel, nearly 3 km away, at 11 am. The Shimla unit of BJP also submitted a memorandum to governor Acharya Devvrat.

The party supporters clashed with the police at the HP secretariat and broke the outer gates and barricades. There were also reports of protesters hurling stones.

The workers later submitted a memorandum to the governor demanding dismissal of the Virbhadra government and imposition of President’s rule in the state. The BJP also demanded that former Shimla SP DW Negi and SIT team headed by Zahur Zaidi, former inspector general (IG) southern range, be suspended.

“We have never seen the main gates of the secretariat locked like this. Many protests are held outside the secretariat but gates have never been locked,” quipped Shambhu Singh, a shopkeeper at the Chotta Shimla market, where the secretariat is located. Police were later successful in pacifying the agitators.

Accusing the police and government of deliberately botching up investigations, Gaurav Attri, a student leader who led the protest at the state police headquarters in Khalini, alleged, “Efforts are being made to protect the real culprits and evidence is being sanitised.”

Shimla Nagrik Manch and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM) started a protest near the Mall road before marching towards Raj Bhawan in Chotta Shimla. Manch members submitted a memorandum to the governor seeking dismissal of the director general of police (DGP), Somesh Goyal. They also called for a meeting of resident welfare associations of Shimla on Friday.

Besides BJP workers and CPIM supporters, civil society groups from nearby towns of Theog, Bhatta Kufar, Mashobra and villages surrounding Shimla carried out separate protests and marches on Mall road and other localities. Protests were also held in Sanjauli, Khalini and other localities of the town.

“We have never seen such mobilisation,” Rohit Sood, a local said at Mall Road.

Glasses of three buses of the Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) were shattered in Taland area. Superintendent of police (SP) Soumya Sambasivan said the protests were largely peaceful, and though there was sloganeering, no major incident of violence was reported.

Capital deserted as BJP calls for bandh

Following a call for a Shimla bandh by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), shops remained closed through the day.

The main shopping and tourism centres of Shimla wore a deserted look, as most shops on the Mall road and Lower Bazaar downed their shutters on Thursday morning. Shopkeepers said they feared violence as tempers were running high among protesters.

Traders and hoteliers complained that supply of milk, eggs and bread was affected in several parts of the city. Tourists, too, bore the brunt of the bandh and protests. “We have not got food since morning,” Ehkam Vihak, a businessman from Delhi, said.

First Published: Jul 21, 2017 10:43 IST