Gudiya case solved! So said the CBI, or Central Bureau of Investigation, in April 2018. While Himachal Pradesh Police had implicated five people in the rape and murder of the young girl, the premier investigation agency bust this narrative and claimed that this was not a gang rape at all, but a crime committed by just one person.
The CBI arrested the individual they held responsible for the crime and exonerated all those who had been arrested by the state police. To restate an important fact in this case, one of the men accused and arrested by state police, Suraj Singh, had died in police custody. Therefore, a separate case of custodial death was also registered in this case.
The CBI worked on the premise that Himachal Police were hand-in-glove with the accused, and that the custodial death was an outcome of such connivance. However, the accused person who allegedly connived with the police to ensure a shoddy investigation had a very humble background. It is therefore impossible to believe that the police tried to protect him, connived with him, and therefore arrested five (other than him) persons wrongly.
In any case, thereafter, the CBI arrested top officials of Himachal Police, including the inspector general, the superintendent of police at Shimla, the deputy superintendent of police at Theog, and the police station in-charge of Kotkhai, along with some other officers. They were charged with conspiring to kill Suraj in police lock-up in order to protect the actual person—someone very powerful—who actually committed the crimes against Gudiya.
As this case is still sub judice, it is best to state the bottom-line—that nobody, since the very beginning, believed the version of events given by the CBI—and leave it at that.
CFSL Belies CBI’s Claims
The CBI’s narrative, and its premise that there was only one perpetrator in the crime, was completely demolished after the the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) report went public. This report confirms that the heinous crime involved more than one person. In other words, it was a gang rape.
As a result of this revelation, nobody is sure what will happen next in the case, which is also pending in the trial court. Meanwhile, Gudiya’s parents met the state chief minister Jai Ram Thakur in late November 2019, after the contents of the CFSL report became public, and sought a judicial probe.
There are some uneasy questions that the CBI will have to answer regarding the Gudiya case. First, from the very day that this case was transferred to the CBI by the state government, the “premier investigation agency” appeared determined to prove that the police messed up the investigation and compromised the evidences.
Besides, the CBI’s version was also unbelievable. It claimed that the Himachal Police killed Suraj because of a top-to-bottom conspiracy to botch their investigation into the rape-murder. It was beyond comprehension that officers at the highest level were involved in doing this. In fact, it seemed that instead of focussing on the murder itself, the CBI was more interested in the custodial death case and in nabbing top police officials for it.
But if nobody was prepared to believe the CBI’s stories, even the police version had not inspired trust.
According to the police, two of the accused fought in police lock-up and one of them ended up dead in that fight. The most common public perception of this utterly despicable occurrence was that the police had killed one of the accused, tried to hush up the incident, and found an easy target to blame in his co-accused.
The second set of uneasy questions that arise, again in the CBI’s version of events, is why it discarded the brain-mapping reports of the accused persons. Just a glance at that record brings to the fore some important experiential knowledge held by the alleged criminals. Besides, there is evidence that corroborates their experiential knowledge. This evidence was developed by Himachal Police during its investigation.
Why, then, did the CBI discard it outright? Was it trying to protect someone, or was it not even interested in investigating who killed
Gudiya? Consider these brain-mapping transcripts:
Excerpts of the above documents are as follows: Responses to the probes in the form of experiential knowledge indicate that Lokhan possess the experiential knowledge. He had seen that she has worn white shalwar. Rajendra caught her both legs. He second time consumed Himalayan Orange wine in the jungle. He lost his control seeing Gudiya’s naked body. While he was pulling Gudiya’s nikkar she hit him by her leg so Deepak caught Gudiya’s both hands. On seeing naked Gudiya screaming. I was afraid...
Experiential knowledge of these very facts also show up in the brain-mapping of Rajendra, another accused, where he mentions that Gudiya wore a white shalwar and that Suraj forcefully pulled her hand. Another fact that came to the fore is regarding ‘Sudarshan Gutka’. This experiential knowledge has also turned up in the brain-mapping of another accused, Ashish Chauhan.
The investigating agency could not have missed what these transcripts reveal. Why, then did it choose a different path for its probe? Only the CBI can answer this, but the facts do not end here. The brain-mapping is further corroborated by important evidences Himachal Police have recovered from the site, for instance the white shalwar and Himalayan Orange country liquor.
Before such incriminating evidence, which corroborates the brain-mapping results, the CBI theory that it was an act of a single individual loses merit.
Was It Politics?
This question is very pertinent, as just five months after the Gudiya incident, in December 2017, the state went to the polls. When the Gudiya incident took place, the state government was being run by an ailing chief minister, Virbhadra Singh, who was losing command over the state. Meanwhile, the central government run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was more than determined to capture power.
As a natural corollary, the failure of Himachal Police in the Gudiya case and the various disasters that unfolded during its investigations, were seen as abject political failures of the Congress party. In fact, the BJP manifesto for the Assembly polls mentioned this case and blamed the Congress rule for failing to protect girl children. Quite naturally, people were also fed up with the callous attitude of the state government and keen to bring it down. Massive protests were witnessed on the streets, not just in Shimla but throughout the state.
It is now for the CBI to answer whether it was guided by the central government to tarnish the image of the state government (which was admittedly at an abysmal low at that time) or did it fairly conduct its investigation, and only erred in judgement?
Truth is, the recent revelations have made ordinary citizens even more sceptical about investigating agencies.
The idea that the fear of strict laws will deter such incidents also does not hold true. The recent rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian in Cyberabad exposes this. More worrying is the way the investigating agencies are behaving in Telangana. The state police has allegedly killed all four accused in cold blood, apparently because they were attacked by them. This sounds incredible, but that apart, imagine the same treatment being meted out to the accused in the Gudiya case.
So far, the revelations in Himachal have shown that the accused may not even have been involved in the crime. Sure, it does not follow that the four arrested in the Hyderabad case were innocent, but it does demonstrate why a fair trial is a must and extra-judicial killings are a real threat.
As they say, ‘If justice delayed is justice denied, then justice hurried is justice buried.’
Back in Shimla and the rest of Himachal Pradesh, the question is what the government will do next: re-open the investigation in the wake of these revelations, while the matter is pending in the trial court, or allow time to pass and await a repeat of such a gruesome crime?
The writer is former Deputy Mayor of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. The views are personal.