Lakhimpur Kheri: In Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district, two teenaged Dalit sisters were found hanging Wednesday from a tree about two kilometers from their house in Tambolin Purwa village.
The sisters — aged 17 and 15 — were allegedly abducted from their home by three men and raped by at least two of the youths, who, the police told media persons, have admitted to the crime.
The incident has brought back stark reminders of the chilling Badaun ‘gang rape and murder’ case from 2014, where two minor sisters were found hanging after they were raped by four persons.
In the post mortem reports of the two girls, which ThePrint has accessed, the cause of death has been mentioned as “asphyxia as a result of ante-mortem strangulation”.
According to the police, the two sisters were acquainted with the three accused — identified as Junaid, Suhail and Hafizur Rehman — something the girls’ mother, brother and sister have denied.
The girls, said the police, had recently been introduced to the three accused by a fellow villager named Chhotu, who is known to the family.
Speaking to ThePrint, the girls’ inconsolable mother said the incident took place around 3 pm Wednesday when she was inside the house. “Chhotu had called three young men from the neighbouring Lalpur village, all of whom I can identify by face. The three pulled my daughters onto the motorbike they were riding and sped away. I tried to chase them for a few meters but fell down,” she said.
She further alleged that before she fell down and lost consciousness, she saw two of the accused “gag” her elder daughter and pull her away, while the third carried her younger daughter on his shoulder.
When she regained consciousness, she started searching for her girls who were then discovered hanging from a tree at around 5 pm.
An FIR has been lodged against Suhail, Junaid, Hafizur Rehman and Chhotu on a complaint from the girl’s mother under IPC sections 302 (punishment for murder), 376 (punishment for rape), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and sections 3 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
All four accused were arrested Wednesday.
Speaking to mediapersons, Lakhimpur Kheri Superintendent of Police (SP) Sanjeev Suman said the primary information the police is sharing with the media is based on the confessions of the accused before police.
“The trio was identified and it was found that they are known to Chhotu, who introduced them to the girls. Suhail and Hafizul Rehman were arrested late Wednesday night,” he said, adding that Junaid was arrested Thursday morning after a shootout, during which he was shot in the leg.
The confessions of the accused before police is not admissible in court.
‘The scene looked composed’
According to eyewitnesses, the girls were found hanging from a khairi tree in a sugarcane field located about two kilometers from their house. “The feet of the younger one had been tied and she was hanging from a branch lower than her elder sister. Her feet were touching the ground. It seemed very ‘composed’,” said Pakkho, a labourer who resides in the village.
As family members and villagers got to know of the deaths, a crowd gathered at the spot and the police were informed. The bodies of the two girls were removed by the police and taken away, which angered the family who demanded that the post mortem be held in front of them.
As the villagers attempted to protest, the Lakhimpur Kheri Police, led by SP Suman, asked them to refrain from blocking the road near Nighasan Chauraha. Videos of the police arguing with the crowd have gone viral.
In one such video, the SP can be heard telling a villager to not resort to “netagiri” (politics). In another video, he is heard assuring the family that the post mortem would be conducted after discussion with the family, and asking the villagers to call as many family members as they want.
The post mortem was finally conducted Thursday morning after a panel of doctors was formed for the same. The dead bodies of the girls finally reached the house at around 2 pm Thursday.
Speaking to mediapersons, SP Suman, said: “More details will be revealed soon. We are conducting forensic examinations, gathering scientific evidence and questioning the accused.”
‘Coaxed and enticed’
The investigation, said SP Suman, suggested that Suhail and Junaid had established sexual relations with the elder and younger sister “one on one”, respectively, and that while Hafizur Rehman was also present at the spot, his involvement in the rape has not been confirmed.
“Yesterday, the trio had reached the village and coaxed the girls into coming with them. They were first taken to the field where they established sexual relations with them without their consent. The girls then asked the accused to marry them and were adamant in their demand. Angered by this, the youths admitted to having strangulated the women with their dupattas. Then, two others — Kareemuddin and Arif — were called to the spot by the accused. The five youths then together hanged the women from the tree in a bid to destroy evidence,” said SP Suman.
Kareemuddin and Arif’s names will be added in the FIR, the police said.
“So far, only Suhail and Junaid have admitted to the crime. The rest, if they are involved, will be confirmed in the post mortem report. Clothes of all the accused have been taken into custody and physical examinations of all the accused are being conducted. As of now, it is a primary investigation and it is not possible to disclose a lot of details. All six accused are in our custody,” added Suman.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)