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'My husband can come home because of the CBI'

Last updated on: November 21, 2017 15:12 IST

'He was limping when we first saw him.'
His legs and arms were swollen. His face was swollen.'
'He said the police told him to accept the charges against him or they would beat him more.'
With the CBI ruling out bus conductor Ashok Kumar's involvement in Ryan International School student Pradhyumn Thakur's murder, his wife Mamata is hopeful of him getting bail on November 16.
'I just want my man to come home, I don't want anything else,' she tells Rediff.com's Swarupa Dutt. 

(This interview was first published before Ashok Kumar was granted bail. Kumar was granted bail on Tuesday, November 21.)

IMAGE: Mamata with her husband Ashok Kumar and their two sons. The only photograph of the family together, it was taken by a neighbour using her father-in-law's cell phone. She doesn't own one.
'I'm illiterate, what will I do with a phone?" asks Mamata.

Mamata returns to her home in Ghamroj village near Bhondsi, Gurugram, at 3 pm.

'We may sue cops, school'

Ashok Kumar's lawyer Mohit Verma speaks to Rediff.com's Swarupa Dutt.

Why did you take over the case?

Because I felt my client was innocent.

Are you handling the case pro bono?

That's a personal matter.

Have you sued the Haryana police and the Ryan International School management?

Not yet. We will once the CBI files a closure report in the case.

When do you think Ashok will be released?

The bail argument is on November 16, at 10 am. If he gets bail he gets out of jail.

The court wants to hear CBI's version of events before granting bail.

So, what is the status of the case now?

We are waiting for bail. Then the CBI has to file a closure report.

Once that is done, we believe my client will be discharged from the case.

The Class 11 boy the CBI has arrested for the murder has retracted his confession. Will this have any effect on Ashok's bail or his discharge from the case?

These things keep happening, but no, it will have no effect on the case.

She has spent the day meeting her husband Ashok Kumar.

A 15-minute meeting in Bhondsi jail.

That's all the time the jail officials allowed them.

Kumar, a bus conductor, was arrested for the murder of seven-year-old Pradhyumn Thakur, a student of the Ryan International School in Gurugram, on September 8.

Pradhyumn's throat was slit with a knife in the bathroom of the school on the morning of September 8.

The Gurugram police had arrested Ashok for the murder. (See box below: The case so far)

On September 22, the Central Bureau of Investigation took over the case and on November 14, claimed that a Class 11 student of the same school had confessed to killing Pradhyumn.

For Ashok's family the news comes as a relief for it means that once the CBI files a closure report, he could be discharged from the case.

On Thursday, November 16, Ashok Kumar's bail plea comes up for hearing at the district court in Gurugram.

If the court grants bail, Ashok is a free man. The CBI believes Kumar was incorrectly implicated by the Gurugram police in the murder and is unlikely to oppose the bail plea.

Two days ahead of the hearing, when Mamata meets Ashok in jail, he asks her as he does every time, when he will be released.

"'How are things outside (at home)', he asked me. Unlike the first time, he didn't cry and neither did I. I told him everything was all right. Sab sahi ho raha hai. Ab aap jaldi chhoot jaoge (You will be released soon. Don't worry)," Mamta says over her father-in-law's phone from her village in Dhamroj near Bhondsi.

She says there is hope now and she is holding on to it.

"He is a good man. Achhe aadmi hain. He is a quiet man. He has never hurt anyone, he could never imagine hurting kids. He has never ever slapped his own children. How can he do something like this?" she points out.

Theirs was an arranged marriage. "Bade dhoom dham se shaadi karaye." They have been married for 12 years.

And in those 12 years he has been a good husband, she says.

"Bilkul sahi hai", she describes him, never once using his name during the entire interview. He is perfect, she says. He looks after her, the children, his parents.

"Jab se hamari shaadi huyen hain main bilkul khush hoon (I'm very happy since the day I got married)," she says.

The family lives in a small house, she says, with a kitchen and two rooms. Her days are spent doing housework and in prayer.

"I pray every day; even when he was with me and even now when he is not. I pray that he will come home on the 16th. Ummeed toh puri hai (I hope for the best)," she says.

"I am not educated, so I don't know what to do. All I know is that I want him home. Bas (that's it)."

The Class 11 student, who has been arrested for Pradhyumn Thakur's murder, has retracted his confession. How will it affect your husband?

I don't know. I'm illiterate; I'm an angootha chaap. So I have no idea about all this. The elders in the family will know. I'm just a woman.

But I can say that we were very relieved when the boy was arrested.

How did you hear about the boy's arrest?

We heard the news on Bihar ETV (a television channel). Nobody told us. Sahi laga. It was good.

The CBI is conducting the investigation and they are on the right track.

We have been saying this all along that that he (her husband, Ashok Kumar) is innocent. That he didn't do it. Nirdosh hai, nirdosh hai, but nobody listened to us.

The CBI finding gave us a sense of relief.

Did you ever feel at any point in time that your husband could have committed the murder?

No, we were always convinced. We always knew he could never have done this. He has small kids who are Pradhyumn's age.

Chhote chhote bachche hain. How can he do something like this?!

He is a poor man. He was implicated by the police.

He was beaten up and forced to confess to a crime he did not commit.

How many times have you met Ashok Kumar in jail?

He has been in Bhondsi jail for over two months. I've met him, I think, four times. I took my children along too for a couple of visits.

What did he tell you?

They (the jail officials) hardly gave us any time to meet.

The first time he he saw us he started crying.

He told me, 'Mamata, humne aise kaam na kiya. Mujhe fasaya gaya. (Mamata, I haven't done it. I have been implicated).'

He told me, 'I swear on my children, my little children, that I didn't do it. Maine toh maar khake haan bol di (I confessed because I was beaten)'.

The police beat him severely. Bahut torture kiya (They tortured him a lot).

He was limping when we first saw him.

His legs and arms were swollen. His face was swollen. We were both crying.

He said the police told him to accept the charges against him or they would beat him more.

Did you ever believe he could have committed the murder?

Never. But the first time I saw him in jail, I told him, 'You tell me the truth. Have you done it. Galti insaan se ho jati hai. Sach batao. (People make mistakes, tell me the truth)'.

He said, 'Mere baccho ki kasam, maine na karo (I swear on my children, I did not do it).'

What did you tell your children?

They were aware of the incident. They watched the news on TV and told me, 'Mummy, papa would never do something like this. He has never ever hit us or slapped us. How will he kill a child?'

When they met him, they told him, 'Papa you come home soon'.

I have two sons; one is seven years old, the other is nine. Suddenly they seem to have grown up.

Tell us what happened on the day of the murder.

He left home at 5.20 am as usual. I don't know how long it takes him to get to the school, I've never been there. I stay at home.

He has been working in this school for just six to seven months, since February.

He was working in our village earlier, as a conductor, in the Vivek Bharati school.

He was earning Rs 5,000 there and they (the Ryan International School) offered him Rs 7,500.

Mazdoor hain hum (we are workers), we will work wherever we get paid more.

We have no idea of exactly what happened that day.

We heard the news on television. We were waiting for him to return home at 5 pm.

One hour, two hours... passed. We called him on the phone.

The first time the phone rang, but thereafter it was switched off every time we called.

We were worried, but then we thought he must have decided to stay over in town.

I also felt may be something could have happened to him, but never did I imagine it would be something like this.

Then neighbours told us that they heard about his arrest on TV. That's when we switched on the news. By then it was around 10 pm.

Did you meet him the next day?

Actually, I met him at least six or seven days after he was arrested.

We didn't even know where he had been jailed. We didn't know whom to ask. The police was not telling us anything.

The men of our village ran here and there, trying to find out whether he was in Bhondsi jail or in Sohna jail.

The elders in the village, my father-in-law, worked out the details of where he was.

I'm a simple, uneducated, woman, I don't have any idea of what should be done.

I think on the third or maybe the second day after his arrest, papa (father-in-law) went and met him in jail. They were given two minutes together.

Papa asked him, 'Beta, taine kuch kiya hai, ya na kiya hai, tu mere aage sach bata de (Son, have you done it or not, tell me the truth).'

The policemen were standing near him. He felt intimidated. He said he didn't do anything. Ishaare se (by a gesture).

Then the police took him away. 'Chalo chalo, time ho gaya (Come on, time's up).'

You believe he was falsely implicated in the murder. Why?

Because he is poor. Because he has no voice. And they didn't find anyone else to implicate.

Bali ka bakra bana diya (he's been made a scapegoat).

Do you have faith in the CBI probe?

Yes, because of them I can hope that he will be home.

Have you tried to get in touch with Pradhyumn's parents?

We wanted to meet them many times. But we were scared. So we didn't go.

Scared about?

The police were still handling the case and he (Ashok Kumar) was an accused. So we feared for his life.

Now we are thinking that once he (her husband) comes home we will go and meet them.

How did you find a lawyer for your case?

We are too poor to go to a lawyer. Also, not a single lawyer in Gurugram wanted to represent us.

Then a lawyer came and met us and said he wants to help us get to the truth.

We didn't approach him. We don't have any money. He came to us around six days after Ashok was arrested.

I don't know what he said. Main toh ladies hoon (I'm a woman). Only the men do the talking. I don't know anything.

Her father-in-law Amichand and her uncle Om Prakash Chopra, who spoke briefly on the phone, reinforced Mamata's illiteracy claims saying there was no point in speaking to her. She was just a woman and knew nothing.

Have you filed a case against the Haryana police and the Ryan International School management?

Aadmi ghar aajaye, bas humein kuch na chahiye (I just want my man to come home, I don't want anything else).

I don't know anything about any lawsuit. Maybe the elders in the village know. I am illiterate.

When do you think he will come home?

The next hearing is on the 16th (Thursday). Hopefully then.

What next?

First let him come home. I don't know if he will be fit to work.

The police have beaten him up severely. Mar todh diyo.

He will not go back to that school (Ryan International) for sure.

The case so far

September 8, 2017: Seven-year-old Pradhyumn Thakur was found murdered with his throat slit in a washroom at the Ryan International School in Gurugram.

The police arrested Ashok Kumar, one of the school's bus conductors, hours after the murder and claimed to have cracked the case.

They said Kumar confessed to the crime after being grilled by the police.

It was alleged that Kumar murdered the boy after a failed sexual assault attempt.

September 9: Gurugram Police Commissioner Sandeep Khirwar claimed that Kumar's involvement as the perpetrator of the crime 'had come to the fore clearly'.

Pradhyumn's family expressed dissatisfaction over the police findings and sought a CBI probe. The boy's father accused the school administration of negligence.

September 10: Parents protest outside the Ryan International School. Haryana government says willing to transfer the case to CBI.

September 11: Special Investigation Team probing the case says 'attempts were made to destroy evidence'. Two senior school officials arrested.

September 12: Post-mortem report says Pradhyumn was not sexually assaulted and died of excessive bleeding.

September 16: Haryana government orders a CBI probe. Takes over school's management for three months.

September 22: The CBI takes over investigation of the case.

November 8: The CBI arrests a Class 11 student of the Ryan International School, saying he killed Pradhyumn as he wanted the parent-teacher meeting and exams to be postponed.

The CBI also said they found no evidence against Ashok Kumar.

November 14: The Class 11 student retracts his confession.

November 16: Ashok Kumar's bail hearing is scheduled.

Swarupa Dutt