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Kotkhai rape-murder: Year on, victim’s father unhappy with probe

On July 4 last year, a girl studying in Government Senior Secondary School at Mahasu had gone missing from her way back home. Her naked body was two days later found in woods in Bankufar, close to Hilaila village.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2018 21:56 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Kotkhai rape-murder,probe,Government Senior Secondary School
Widespread protests rocked the hill state after the rape and murder of the Class-10 student.(Reuters)

A year after the rape and murder of a teenaged girl in Kotkhai tehsil’s Hilaila village that shook Himachal Pradesh and became one of the reasons for the Virbhadra government’s ouster, the victim’s family feels dissatisfied with the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI’s) probe that led to the arrest of a woodcutter.

Insisting on the involvement of more than one person in the case, victim’s father, who is a farmer, says, “There is much more to it than meets the eye. The crime was not committed by just one person as being claimed by the investigating agency.”

“There are many questions which still boggle my mind. I have confronted sleuths several times, but it’s painful that the investigation has found only one man guilty. They still have not been able to answer where was my daughter’s body kept till it was found in the forest,” he adds.

“It has been a year and we pray each day that real culprits are put behind bars,” says victim’s sister, who however appears optimistic towards the government’s efforts in ensuring women safety in the state.

On July 4 last year, a girl studying in Government Senior Secondary School at Mahasu had gone missing from her way back home. Her naked body was two days later found in woods in Bankufar, close to Hilaila village. What turned out to be a rape and murder case triggered widespread protests across the state with infuriated public resorting to blocking roads and angry mob torching a police station in Kotkhai. A special investigation team (SIT) was constituted by police to be led by inspector general of police Zahur Zaidi, which had arrested six suspects. But one of the initial suspect, Suraj Singh, on July 19 died in the police custody. Police claimed that Suraj died after a scuffle with another suspect in the lock-up.

Nine months ago, CBI took over the investigation and registered two FIRs — one in custodial death case and another in the rape and murder case. The CBI probe revealed that Suraj had died of police torture, which led to the arrest of entire SIT along with Zaidi and the then Shimla superintendent of police, DW Negi. The SIT was charged with murder, wrongful confinement to extort a confession and destruction of evidence.

A 40-member CBI team had questioned more than 1,000 people and recorded statements of at least 400 of them. The investigators had used DNA testing to zero in on suspects and put 250 people to test before arresting the ‘prime accused’, a 25-year-old woodcutter, Anil Kumar. His DNA samples had matched with the ones gathered from the spot where girl’s body was found.

Kumar’s family was put under technical and physical surveillance. Anil, who was on run, had made a call to one of his family member, and that landed him in the police net. He was arrested from a village in Rohru subdivision in April this year.

The CBI, however, claims that the investigation in the case was on. “We have filed a chargesheet in the court and are still probing the case,” says CBI spokesperson RK Gaur.

Timeline
  • July 4, 2017: A 16-year-old schoolgirl goes missing in the Halaila area of Kotkhai
  • July 6: Her body is found in Halaila forest
  • July 9: Police constitute SIT under IG (south) Zahur Zaidi
  • July 13: Police claim breakthrough, arrest six suspects
  • July 19: Suraj, one of the accused arrested by the SIT, dies in police custody
  • July 22: CBI takes over investigation
  • August 29: CBI arrests IG Zaidi, seven other cops in custodial death case
  • March 28, 2018: HC summons CBI director
  • April 14: CBI arrests ‘key suspect’ in rape and murder case.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 21:54 IST