Was road rage behind the murder that shocked Bihar?
M I Khan reports from Patna.
A day after the Bihar police claimed that the killing of Indigo Airlines station manager Rupesh Kumar Singh last month was the outcome of road rage, few are ready to buy the theory in Patna, where the crime occurred.
On the contrary, there is a growing demand for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the case.
Rupesh Singh -- who reportedly had a wide network of contacts among National Democratic Alliance and Opposition leaders, top bureaucrats, businessmen, rich contractors and others -- was shot dead outside his home in the heart of Patna by motorcycle-borne killers who pumped six bullets him.
The murder occurred in Punaichak, an upmarket area located hardly 60 metres from the state secretariat and 1.5 km from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's official residence, and triggered a fresh debate over lawlessness in Bihar.
The Bihar police was under tremendous pressure for nearly three weeks as it failed to make any breakthrough into the high profile killing.
Till Wednesday afternoon, that is, when Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Upendra Kumar Sharma announced at a press conference that the police had arrested the main accused and cracked the the case.
Sharma stressed that Rupesh Singh was killed by Ritu Raj Singh and three friends after a near-fatal road accident with Rupesh Singh's vehicle last year.
"Ritu Raj Singh hatched a conspiracy to kill Rupesh Kumar Singh after his two-wheeler collided with Rupesh's SUV," Sharma stated.
"Rupesh had threatened to hand over him to the police. Sensing trouble, Rituraj left the spot as he was driving a stolen bike, but he noted Rupesh's vehicle number and later tracked its whereabouts," the police officer said.
According to the police, Ritu Raj Singh, 28, a geography graduate from Sunrise University in Rajasthan, is a resident of Adarsh Nagar in Patna and the son of a brick kiln owner.
While the police claims he was allegedly involved in a motorcycle theft, no FIR has been lodged against him at any police station in the city in connection with any criminal incident.
Rupesh Singh's killing was the first time that he allegedly used a revolver.
Ritu Raj Singh's friends, who were allegedly involved in the crime, are absconding.
Rupesh Singh's family -- wife, parents and brother -- not only rejected the police claim of road rage being behind his killing, but demanded a CBI probe saying they do not have faith in the state police.
'Asli karol ko chupaya ja raha hai (the real killer is being protected),' said Nitu Singh, Rupesh Singh's wide, adding that it was wrong to connect a bike hitting her husband's vehicle on November 28 to his killing.
There was no altercation, scuffle or clash that occurred after the vehicles collided, like what the police is trying to made out, she said .
'After my husband's new SUV was hit by a speeding motorcycle, when he stopped his vehicle and got out of it, the youth riding the motorcycle drove away. He had told me about it then,' she said.
'There was no tension after that incident and we visited Goa to celebrate the new year,' she said.
Demanding a CBI probe into her husband's murder, Nitu Singh said, 'It is not possible to accept the police's road rage theory, my husband was not killed over it. How can we trust the police when it has come up with something impossible? We need justice.'
Her father Shivji Singh too dismissed the road rage theory as being far from the truth. 'We are not ready to accept the road rage theory, there was something else, the police has failed in its duty. Only a high level probe by the CBI can reveal the truth,' he said.
A group of former ministers and former MLAs on Thursday met Bihar Governor Phagu Chauhan and demanded a CBI probe into Rupesh Singh's death.
The delegation, including senior Bharatiya Janata party leader Suresh Sharma, informed the governor that the police had cooked up a false story to suppress the truth behind Rupeesh Singh's killing, and demanded a CBI probe. They also demanded security for Singh's family in view of the threat perception to them.
'The police theory is full of loopholes, there is no truth in it. A fabricated story was created that even a child will not believe. This is giving strength to the apprehension that the police has been trying to protect someone powerful in this case,' Suresh Sharma said.
Soon after the killing, Bihar Director General of Police S K Singhal told the media that the killing was the handiwork of contract killers and that it was a tough case to crack.
'The main angle of the probe is related to a contract or big tender for government projects as per information collected so far,' Singhal had then said.
After the police floated its road rage theory, Tejashwi Yadav, leader of the Opposition in the Bihar assembly, recalled that he had made it clear in January itself that the police was looking for a scapegoat to save the 'actual culprits' in Rupesh Singh's killing.
Tejashwi alleged that the police have now found a scapegoat to protect a powerful confidant of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
According to Bihar police officers, a special investigation team along with another police team investigated Rupeesh Singh's murder, scanned footage from more than 200 CCTV cameras and examined the call data records from more than 4,000 cell phones that were active in the area at the time of the incident.
More than five dozen people were interrogated in connection with the murder.
At the end of which all that the police could up with was that road rage was behind Rupesh Singh's murder.