Deri Skaner (Gautam Buddh Nagar): “I was so proud of my daughter. When she got admission in the US, she told me, ‘Papa, just smile, our days of hardship are over,” said Jitendra Bhati, 46, as he recalled the day his daughter Sudeeksha received a scholarship worth Rs 3.8 crore to study at Babson College in Massachusetts, USA, soon after making waves for scoring 98 per cent in her CBSE Class XII boards.
The young woman’s death in a motorbike accident has caused outrage in Uttar Pradesh, because her family has alleged that two men on a black Bullet motorbike harassed her in the lead-up to the accident. But the administration had said there was no ‘eve-teasing’ involved, and the family itself has not mentioned ‘harassment’ or ‘eve-teasing’ in its complaint filed to the police for an FIR. The family said the men were driving recklessly and overtook the bike she was on once or twice, then braked deliberately in front of it.
They now want the police to catch the men, with Jitendra saying: “I want justice for my daughter. I want these men to be punished. I don’t want any other father to lose his Sudeeksha.”
The hope of Deri Skaner
At the Bhati home in Deri Skaner village near Dadri in Gautam Buddh Nagar district, ThePrint found Sudeeksha’s mother and her two sisters bed-ridden, grief-stricken and exhausted. Her mother has been unable to get up much since hearing of her daughter’s death, and a six-year-old son sat massaging her head. Other relatives said they had not eaten a morsel since they got the news.
Jitendra runs a tea stall-cum-dhaba in the village, and the lockdown dried up the only source of income for the family of eight. “I have six children and two cows. With the lockdown, we were left with no means for survival. Not only did Sudeeksha support us, but also provided for us by asking her sponsor to send a part of her scholarship money to us during this period,” he said.
In the village, Sudeeksha was nothing less than an icon.
Family members and other villagers said with Sudeeksha’s death, Deri Skaner has lost the one person pushing for female education.
Karanbir Singh, a 26-year-old resident of Deri Skaner, told ThePrint: “She had started teaching the children of the village online. She was starting an NGO called ‘Ubharti Shiksha Sanstha’ to promote education and was already helping 50 children learn to read and write.”
Karanbir also said though the activities of the NGO had stopped due to the lockdown, Sudeeksha had promised the children that before returning to the US, she would put some structure in place so that they can continue learning.
Jitendra said when Sudeeksha had come back for her holidays from the US, before the lockdown, she started giving online lessons to support the family. “On 5 August, she told me she wanted to help the family and would teach children online. She could only do that for five days,” he lamented.
Sudeeksha’s aunt Sarita Bhati said: “She would ensure that her younger brothers and sisters were studying properly. Not only did she guide them, but would also provide them with books and other material to study.”
Sarita said the family had lost its pillar of strength and hope: “With Sudeeksha’s success, we felt hopeful that she would bring prosperity to the family. Her father runs a small tea stall which brings them just enough money to make ends meet.”
Narrating how the accident occurred, an emotional Jitendra said: “I had gone to bring feed for my cattle at around 8 am Monday. Sudeeksha had told me she wanted to meet her maternal uncle in Bulandshahr, and also wanted to bring her brother’s transfer certificate from his school there. I wasn’t home when the children left.”
He said Sudeeksha had left with her 16-year-old brother Nigam and uncle Satendra, and that the latter was driving the bike.
However, the police and the administration have narrated a completely different version, with Bulandshahr District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar telling the media Tuesday that an underage Nigam was driving the bike, and ruling out harassment or ‘eve-teasing’ too, saying the brother had lost control of the bike.
The FIR, accessed by ThePrint, mentions the two men on the black Bullet driving recklessly, according to the family’s written complaint that was filed late Tuesday evening, but not ‘harassment’ or ‘eve-teasing’.
An officer at Aurangabad police station, under whose jurisdiction the accident took place, said the Bullet riders have been charged under Indian Penal Code Section 279 for rash driving, Section 304(A) for causing death by negligence, Section 177 for furnishing false information, and under sections 184 and 192 of the Motor Vehicle Act. Policemen also said the road where the accident took place is a narrow one with no divider, and there was traffic on that road Monday morning, because UP observes a weekend lockdown.
The family’s complaint also said the Bullet had ‘Jat’ written on the number plate, something Sudeeksha’s uncle told the media and her brother also said in a video released by the police on Twitter.
The police are awaiting Sudeeksha’s post-mortem report.
Bulandshahr Superintendent of Police A.K. Srivastava acknowledged the changed narrative of the family, saying they haven’t mentioned any harassment or eve-teasing.
He added that the Nigam had filed an FIR Monday morning itself, but then took it back, stating that he needed to consult his family, and that the police, keeping in mind the family’s emotional state, had given them more time to file it.
“This accident took place some 3 kilometres away from our police station between 8:45 am-8:55 am. As soon as we got to know of the accident, our first responders’ team reached the spot. The team included the thana adhyaksh, station in-charge and an ambulance,” he told ThePrint.
The first responders’ team did not find the uncle on the spot, and Nigam and Sudeeksha sustained injuries on the shoulder and head, respectively, he said.
“We were told by Nigam, who claimed to be driving the bike, that he applied his brakes and the bike met with an accident. When the ambulance arrived, only two persons were taken to hospital, Sudeeksha and her younger brother. We never met the uncle,” Srivastava said.
Jitendra, when asked about Nigam’s condition, had said he was lying unconscious in the house and the family felt “hopeless” for him. But Nigam’s aunt Sarita said he was yet to be brought home.
The family had also told the media that nobody had visited them for filing a report all day Tuesday, but SP Srivastava said a team of officers, including the circle officer (crime) and an inspector, had gone to their home and waited for them to file an FIR.
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