Fact-Finding Report Contradicts Police Claims in Banda Dalit Woman Death Case

The facts established in the report point towards the need for an independent, in-depth and unbiased investigation by a competent investigating authority.
Fact-Finding Report Contradicts Police Claims in Banda Dalit Woman Death Case

Banda- On November 2nd, a 40-year-old Dalit woman was found dead, allegedly after being raped and murdered, with her body chopped into pieces in Uttar Pradesh's Banda district. The woman had gone to the house of Rajkumar Shukla to work on mud plastering in his flour mill. When her daughter arrived, she was shocked to find her mother's naked dead body. The police ruled out the possibility of rape, citing the post-mortem report that found no signs of sexual assault.

A fact-finding team comprising Dalit Dignity and Justice Centre, Bundelkhand Dalit Manch, and several other organizations visited the Banda village to conduct a study. The team interviewed eyewitnesses, including the victim's daughter.

The fact-finding is based on facts collected by a team of lawyers and human rights defenders from different groups who collated facts from various sources including testimonies and narratives of the victim's family, witnesses, neighbours' accounts in the village, secondary media sources and legal documents pertaining to the case. The facts established in the report point towards the need for an independent, in-depth and unbiased investigation by a competent investigating authority. The field visit for the fact-finding was conducted from the 23rd to 26th November 2023 and involved a visit to the village and home of the deceased, Banda Court, etc

According to the report, Bhauri Baba, a 75-year-old resident of the village and the first eyewitness, stated that he was sitting at a shop 200 meters away from the incident. When Bauwa, the main accused, called his brother, Bhauri followed and witnessed the decapitated head of the victim through a window. He hurried to inform the victim's minor daughter, who, upon reaching the flour mill, discovered the body without clothes. Three unidentified individuals escaped over the wall while Rajendra, alias Bauwa, stood there.

Kuldeep Kumar Baudh, a representative of Bundelkhand Dalit Adhikar Manch, told The Mooknayak, "We spoke to the deceased victim's daughter, who informed us that the victim was called for mud plastering by the accused. After some hours, Bhauri Baba informed the girl that something had happened where her mother had gone. When she entered the flour mill, she found her mother's severed head separated from the body, which lacked any clothing. Three identified individuals had escaped, according to the girl."

Kuldeep added, "If it was an accident in the flour mill, how did all the clothes end up apart? The detailed report, including the viscera report, is yet to be disclosed, so we cannot rule out the possibility of rape, especially with such strong indicators."

Police Accused of Shielding the Accused Due to Political Affiliation

Raja Bhaiya Yadav, a social activist pursuing the case, informed The Mooknayak, "The FIR was filed under sections 376, 302, and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. However, the police changed the sections, tampering with the case. There has been no progress in the investigation, with only the main accused, Rajendra, arrested. The police are conducting a one-sided investigation by neglecting statements from victims and others in her neighborhood. The site of the accident has been sealed, and evidence and statements are being provided unilaterally. This is allegedly to suppress the issue, as the accused is an office bearer of Banda BJP."

Power Outage at the Time of Incident Rules Out the Possibility of an Accident in the Flour Mill

Advocate Rashmi Verma, a member of Dalit Dignity and Justice Centre, stated to The Mooknayak, "We visited the village and spoke to everyone, including the deceased victim's children. Villagers mentioned that the main accused did not operate the mill during the day, relying on power theft to run it. Additionally, there was a power outage at the time of the incident, making it impossible for the machine to run. Villagers also noted a spilled water trail in the engine room adjacent to the flour mill, indicating an attempt to destroy evidence. However, the police did not investigate that room, which remains locked."

She questioned why, if the FIR names three people, only Rajendra Shukla has been arrested while the others roam free.

Key Summary of the findings:

1. There are two separate narratives emerging from the crime - while the family of the deceased woman allege that she was gang-raped and murdered, the accused persons claim that the deceased died due to an accident in the atta chakki of the accused. The police investigation appears to be blindly agreeing to the explanation given by the accused person without conducting a fair and proper investigation.

2.The FIR lacks mention of other important sections representing the graveness of the alleged crime such as 376A and 376D IPC. This appears to have been done deliberately by the police at the time of registration of FIR.

3. Two of the three named accused remain unarrested and seem to be actively involved in influencing the investigation. Since the scene of the crime is owned by the accused, and it appears from the pictures taken by the fact-finding team that it has not been sealed properly by the police, the apprehensions of tampering with the crime scene and destruction of evidence are apparent.

4. The third accused seems to have been strategically arrested under lesser charges, seemingly to appease the public, weaken the case, and shift the focus of the investigation and popular narrative around the incident.

5. The investigation being conducted so far seems to be manipulated by police by the narrative of “accident” as fed by alleged perpetrators and in fact, there seems to be a collusion between the alleged perpetrators and the investigating body to dilute the nature of the crime and role of the alleged perpetrators

The Mooknayak spoke to Nitin Kumar Saini, the investigating officer of the case, who stated that the investigation is in progress. He denied allegations of one-sided investigation, saying, "Statements from everyone are being taken."

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