Kanpur: A brutal murder and suspected sexual assault of a nine-year-old boy, whose mutilated body was discovered just 300 metres away from his home, in a field in Kanpur’s Narwal Tuesday, a day after he went missing, has put the area’s residents on edge.
According to the boy’s family, one of his eyes was punctured with a nail, there were cigarette burns on his right cheek, contusions on his buttocks, and his neck had strangulation marks. They allege that there were no clothes on the body when it was discovered, and drag marks were found next to it, raising suspicion that he was killed and then moved to the field.
Residents of the village where the boy lived suspect he was subjected to some sort of occult ritual as dung cakes in various shapes and flowers were found a few metres away from the spot where the body was found. According to them, a seven-year-old girl was murdered in a nearby area in similar circumstances in 2020.
The local police have detained at least four young men in connection with the crime. Circle Officer Hrishikesh Yadav told ThePrint that an FIR was lodged Tuesday under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 201 (disappearance of evidence), but more sections may be added.
However, police are awaiting forensic test reports to ascertain whether the Class 5 student was also sodomised, as contusions were found on his buttocks and a sharp-edged stick caked with human faeces was recovered near the spot. If these charges are confirmed, sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, will be added to the FIR, police said.
Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Aditya Kumar Shukla said the cause of death, according to the autopsy results, was a serious head injury caused by a heavy object.
“Since sodomy is suspected and a stick was recovered from the spot, samples were taken from clothes along with swabs and slides that have been sent for DNA examination to a forensic science laboratory in Lucknow. Once we receive a report from there, relevant sections can be added to the case,” he added.
Police sources said they are also probing personal rivalry as a possible motive, and are questioning the in-laws of the victim’s elder sister, whose husband had allegedly died by hanging at their home in 2020. A purported suicide note was recovered at the time, blaming the girl’s family for the suicide, but police later the handwriting was not of the deceased, the sources added.
Kanpur Inspector General Prashant Kumar told ThePrint that all angles are being investigated.
“Its a case of murder. An FIR has been lodged. We are here for further inquiry in this investigation. This has happened just next to the village, and there is only one road in the area. We are probing all angles and will soon be able to find out who is behind this gruesome incident,” he said.
Asked about the possibility that the victim was subjected to an occult ritual, the IG said he could not immediately confirm the same as the case was still under investigation. “Our surveillance is strong here. Technical evidence, DNA, fingerprints have been taken,” he added.
The family conducted the boy’s last rites Wednesday evening.
How the body was found
According to the police, the boy was murdered on the intervening night of 7-8 February.
The nine-year-old lived with his parents, siblings and grandmother in a kuccha house at a village in Narwal area. His family had moved to Kanpur about 45 years ago, and worked as labourers in the fields.
On the morning of 7 February, the boy had refused to go to school, his father told ThePrint.
“Around 11 am, his teacher asked him to come to school, but he refused and said he wanted to play. At 1 pm, his mother and sisters realised that he was getting late for his tuition classes and started looking for him. However, he was nowhere to be found,” he added.
After frantic attempts to find him failed, the family approached the nearest police post. According to the boy’s brother, police told them to submit a written application. When they asked if they could file a missing complaint, the personnel at the police post told them to go to the nearest police station located 12 kilometres away, he added.
“The police then told us that since it had gotten dark, we should continue to search in the area and inform them if we don’t find him. Police initially took no action and the initial search was carried out by the family only,” the boy’s brother, who is in his twenties, claimed.
On Tuesday, as the family was in the process of submitting the boy’s photographs to the police station, they got to know that his body had been found in a field belonging to a former village head.
One of the boy’s elder sisters told ThePrint that a woman and her son, who had been working in the field, located next to a eucalyptus garden, discovered the body.
“The youth was busy tending to the mustard harvest when he spotted my brother’s body lying face down. Shocked, he simply fled and his mother followed him. He could not speak to anyone for some time. His mother then saw the body and informed a villager who in turn called the police,” she added.
The body was then taken to Hallet Hospital in Kanpur, where it was examined by two doctors.
ASP Shukla confirmed that, in connection with the family’s allegations that there was a delay on the part of the local police post, the post in-charge had been sent to Police Lines.
‘Culprit could have been someone victim knew’
The victim’s brother said he was the only one from his family who was allowed to see the body. When he got to see the body while it was being taken to the hospital, he added, he was stunned by the brutality suffered by his brother.
“I could only see blood at first. His left eye was bulging out and a four inch-long nail had been jabbed into it. One of his cheeks had been burnt with a cigarette. His buttocks had contusions and injuries. His neck had pressure marks. There was a huge wound on his head,” he said.
“The doctors told me that when they saw it, they were shocked because of its condition, and the autopsy was put on hold. We were informed that the post-mortem could not be conducted due to late hours and it would be conducted early Wednesday. The next day, a team of two doctors conducted the autopsy, which was videographed,” he told ThePrint.
The victim’s family told ThePrint that the murder could have been orchestrated by someone he knew.
“My brother’s body was found in a field just 300 metres away from our house. He could not have gone there on his own. I strongly feel he was lured and taken there,” said the boy’s brother.
The crime scene
According to police sources, in the eucalyptus garden next to the field where the body was found, a bottle of alcohol, a packet of snacks, disposable glasses and a burnt cigarette were recovered, while the victim’s blood-stained clothes and slippers were found a few metres away.
There was also the stick with human excreta, as well as dung cakes in various shapes, bloodstains and dried flowers — roses — that were found in the eucalyptus garden.
“The stick had excreta on it. It seems that the stick was sharpened and thrust inside his buttocks. We can’t even imagine the torture he must have gone through,” the victim’s brother said.
Villagers suspect ‘tantrik ritual’
Villagers ThePrint spoke to said they suspect the victim was subjected to a “tantrik ritual”.
“The fact that a nail was used to pierce the eye, dung cakes and presence of flowers suggests that a tantrik could have been involved,” said a woman who lives in the village.
She added that their suspicions were rooted in the 2020 murder of a seven-year-old girl in a neighbouring area.
Villagers said four people were arrested in connection with the murder. Among the accused was a childless couple, who had hacked their neighbour’s daughter to death and “extracted her liver and lungs” as part of a “tantrik act” on Diwali in November 2020.
The couple used to approach tantriks and astrologers, and had committed the crime in want of progeny, they added. The National Security Act was reportedly invoked against all four accused.
Furthermore, the villagers claimed that one young man detained in connection with the boy’s murder was mentally ill.
“He is a drunkard and mentally ill. He was fine till some years ago. His family had got a Peepal tree cut in the field recently,” said a villager.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)