In yet another horrific incident, a 16-year-old girl was found murdered in her locality in Shimla. The girl, who would walk to and from the school with her brother, did not return on July 4 and it was two days later that her family recovered her bruised, lifeless body in Halaila forests of Mahasu in Shimla.
While the post-mortem reports confirmed rape and death by strangulation, her death prompted protests across Shimla with various students' organizations taking out protests and planning candle march for her.
Here's a timeline of what has unfolded in the case:
A class X girl had gone missing on July 4 while she was returning from Government Senior Secondary School, Mahasu. Her parents lodged a complaint with the police after her body was found in the Haliala forest two days later.
Initially, the police held it was case of murder but after the postmortem report confirmed rape, a case of rape and murder was registered besides the relevant sections of the POCSO Act as the victim was a minor. Investigations showed that the culprits were aware of the routine of the girl and knew that she does not carry a mobile phone, sources said.
SIT makes arrests in the case
The Special Investigation Team of the Himachal police probing the case on July 13 arrested 6 people in connection with the incident.
The arrested were Ashish Chauhan alias Ashu (29), a resident of Sharaal village in Mahasu area of Kotkhai; Rajender Singh alias Raju (32), the driver of a pick-up vehicle and a resident of Hiliala village; Subash Singh Bisht (42) and Deepak alias Deepu (29), both residents of Pauri Garwal; Suraj Singh (29) and Lok Jung alias Chotu (19), both hailing from Nepal.
According to Director General of Police (DGP) Somesh Goyal, the crime was not pre-planned. The Indian Express reports that while the girl used to return with her brother everyday from school, on July 4 she chose to walk home alone as her brother had stayed back in school for an event, in which she wasn't participating.
On her way back, she was offered a lift by Raju, a resident of her village in a private carriage vehicle. The SIT states that the other 5 men were also in the vehicle.
“Rajendra works as a manager in an orchard of a leading apple grower at Halaila village. After driving some distance he stopped the vehicles and pulled her down. They took her to nearby forests and raped her. All were under the influence of liquor,” said Goyal.
“It’s something extremely shocking and highly shameful that the six persons were in the age group between 19 to 42 years. Though none of them had past criminal record, barring Chauhan. The investigations about his role were still on, especially to study the call details and his locations.” said the DGP.
Violent protests lead to transfer of case to CBI
Succumbing to public pressure and violent protest, the Himachal government on July 14 ordered a CBI probe in the case.
On July 14, a mob vandalized police vehicles outside the Theog police station while others resorted to stone-pelting.
Hindustan Times reports that a large crowd gathered near the "potato ground" of Theog and started to block the national highway connecting Kalka to the Sino-Indo border point Kauirik.
The mob not only raised slogans against the government and the police, many of them vandalized police vehicles.
The mob allegedly roughed up the Shimla Superintendent of Police (SP), damaged his vehicle and those of the Sub- Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Theog and Station House Officer (SHO), Theog, who took shelter inside the police station to escape its fury.
On July 15, the protesters, led by Students Federation of India (SFI) activists, assembled at the Central Telegraph Office in Shimla and marched to the Ridge via the Mall Road, carrying placards demanding justice for the victim.
The Congress also joined the clamour for justice for the victim. Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu said there certainly was some "negligence" in the police probe.
While DGP Goyal had earlier claimed to have solved the case with the arrest of all the six accused, but there were still doubts in the minds of some that the case was being hushed up by the police.
The mob alleged that the real culprits were not arrested as they belonged to influential families.
The 16-year-old Gudiya
Speaking to The Indian Express, the 60-year-old father of the girl said that it was in the protests that his daughter was being referred to as 'gudiya.'
Talking about her daughter, he said that while he used to always warn her about the wild animals in the forest, he should have instead warned her about men who "are worse than beasts."
(With inputs from PTI)
(Feature image source: PTI)