Incessant rain and floodwaters of the rising Ganga are posing a challenge for the Central Bureau of Investigation to exhume bodies of two teenaged girls who were allegedly gang raped and hung from a tree on May 27, in a village in Budaun district of Uttar Pradesh, which has been rocked by a spate of heinous crimes against women over the past few months.
Initially the plan was to exhume the bodies on Sunday morning, but continued downpour and overflowing waters from the nearby Ganga banks over the burial ground prompted the premier investigation agency to undertake the task on Saturday itself.
The decision to exhume the bodies was taken by the CBI to carry out a second autopsy to ascertain whether the girls were actually raped and hung or it was a case of honour killing by the victims’ family members.
Rape was established in the post-mortem carried out earlier on May 28. However, after the case was handed over to CBI, a new angle of honour killing was also being explored.
Interestingly, the honour-killing theory was earlier also floated by UP director general of police A L Banerjee but it got drowned in the noise and din raised by protesting opposition parties and social activists organisations following which the entire case was transferred to the CBI.
However, even as the central agency formally took over the case on June 7 itself, it moved an application only as late as on July 17 to exhume the bodies.
The Budaun district authorities warned the CBI about the rising waters of the Ganga river which routinely inundates a large part of the adjoining areas including the place of burial of the two girls.
And even as the permission for exhuming the bodies was granted on Thursday, the CBI team took two more days to start the work.
A makeshift post-mortem theatre, equipped with a team of doctors from Delhi, was hurriedly erected under a tarpaulin tent just next to the burial area on Saturday morning.
The entire area was cordoned off by the police and media kept at a “safe” distance of about 500 metres from where TV cameras would not be able to capture anything.
Meanwhile, family members of the victims and other local villagers had disapproved the idea of exhuming the bodies.
Some see this as a “design” by the official machinery to twist the facts of the case to save the five accused persons, all of whom belonged to the Yadav community, which currently rules India’s most populous state.
These include two policemen who were currently under arrest along with three others.
Reports reaching the state headquarters in Lucknow from the scene of the crime in Katra village said that the matter was reported to the Ushiat police station soon after the girls went missing on May 27 evening, while they had gone to answer the call of nature. However, the family members of the victims were shooed away by the cops, even as they named the suspects, who had been reportedly spotted by a villager.
Next morning however, the same cops went to the victim’s home to inform that the bodies of the girls were found hanging from a tree in one corner of the village.
That was followed by violent protest and a group of villagers blocked the neighbouring highway which eventually drew the attention of the district authorities who later sprung into action after the case hit the headlines.
Image: Onlookers stand at the site where two teenage girls, who were raped, were hanged from a tree at Budaun district in this May 31 photograph
Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters