An innocent 16 years old girl was raped and brutally killed, her naked body was dumped in a dense deodar forest, police investigated and arrested six accused. Case seemed over but in a meanwhile one accused was died reportedly after police brutality in a lockup. It angered locals and they come out in huge numbers and protest had engulfed the whole Shimla district.

The then state government, under pressure especially in a poll year, handed over the case to the premier investigating agency CBI. Hope were high from the CBI, angry people of the state were confident of getting early positive result from the agency, but all dashed off in time and now no one seems bother to seek justice to innocent 16 years old girl.

The state was to go into poll when this gruesome incident happened in Mahasu region of Kotkhai in Shimla district, BJP, CPM and other political parties tried everything to gain politically and even succeeded. Protesters in protest rallies – called by the political parties – even pelted stones at police stations in Kotkhai and Theog, damaged public properties worth crores. Documents burned at Kotkhai police station – no one raised a single question over the vandalism.

Kotkhai Gudiya Case status report

Several accusations were leveled against the investigating police officers. Allegations read that a SIT, headed by suspended IG Police Zahur Zaidi, had connived with the culprits to influence the investigation. Including IG Zahur Zaidi, SP Shimla and six others were arrested in custodial death of one of accused and now the state government has even approved the prosecution against them.

As the state was heading for the assembly elections, politicians raised question over the functioning of the Virbhadra Singh led state government and even approached the Governor of the state to suspend the government. High octane protest even forced to shut the big iron gates of the state Secretariat. MP from the state even raised the issue in the Parliament and even compared the case with Nirbhaya case and blamed state government for failing to investigate the case properly. He even demanded to dismissal of the state government.

After the arrest of Police personnels a Cabinet Minister in Union Government expressed anguish and dismay. He even termed governance in the state abysmal and leading to loss of faith of general public and civil society in government institution and loss of public face for hitherto very professional and honest police department of the state.

Everyone was hoping that such heroism would help to pressurize the administration and would help to nab culprits. Political parties promised to give justice to the innocent girl, but even after a quarter in the helm, nothing I must say coming out from the investigating agency.

The new government, however, set up a helpline (the gudiya helpline) in January for women safety in the state. The helpline has received 105 complaints, (38 cases of domestic violence, 25 cases of phone stalking, 2 cases of rape and 4 each of eve teasing and cybercrime).

Botched up investigation and question on Police functioning

The Rape and Murder case is nothing but a botched up police investigation. From its very inception question were raised over the investigation of state police in the case. It was alleged that police was not fair in investigation and hushing up the case to protect the highly connected culprits. After the public outcry the state government constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by IG Police Zahur Zaidi.

SIT, after two days of investigation, claimed of making breakthrough and arrested six accused under section 302, 376 IPC & 4 of POCSO Act.

Dissatisfied with the police investigation and its claims, people of the region staged protest at various part of the region and especially at Theog thousands of people participated in the protest, which turned violent and stone were pelted at the police station and even police vehicles and police station was damaged. Blaming police for protecting real culprits, angry protesters even wend their anger over top officers and damaged vehicles of the Shimla SP, Theog SDM and Theog SHO who have been gheraoed inside the police station. In a meanwhile an accused died reportedly after police brutality in a lockup. Which worsen the case and now put the police and its investigation on dock.

Pictures circulated on Social media from Chief Minister Page

A day before the arrest – pictures of six young lads were circulated on the Social Media from Chief Minister social media page. All those belong to influential families. However after the arrest of six accused by the SIT, several questions were raised over the sudden breakthrough in the case.

Under pressure from the opposition and increasing anger among the general public, the state government referred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI). However, the CBI too taken the case following the High Court order. The CBI then taken over the investigation of Rape – Murder and custodial death case. The CBI, as per High Court orders, also constituted a Special Investigation Team.

CBI camped at the crime site where body of the victim was found and even questioned every single person of the village, schools children. Even after eight months of investigation CBI too hadn’t find any substantial clue to crack the case. However, eight police personnel including IG, SP Shimla and DSP were suspended in custodial death case, but Rape and Murder case is still a mystery for CBI and all of us.

All this happened, an innocent girl was raped and killed. Most of us pleaded for the justice. Before the election protest march were organized, candle light protest were trying to wake up the administration and investigating agencies, but after the election and CBI’s failing to crack the case, protest has limited to the press statements only, those leaders who were claiming for giving justice to the innocent girl are silent, there is no candle march and other sort of protest. I’m not jumping to the conclusion, but our conscious must not die before culprits are behind the bar.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.