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Rediff News  All News  » News » UP girl's death: 'Cops did the unthinkable crime'

UP girl's death: 'Cops did the unthinkable crime'

Last updated on: June 21, 2011 13:34 IST

Image: Intezam Ali
Photographs: Sahim Salim/ Sahim Salim in Nighasan, Lakhimpur Kheri's Sahim Salim visits UP's Lakhimpur Kheri district where an eleven-year old girl Sonam was found dead in a village police station last week. While the girl's family alleges foul play on the part of policemen, the officials try to shrug off responsibility.

The calm and serene atmosphere of this picture-perfect dusty village in Uttar Pradesh is only broken by the alarming presence of men in khakis. The stoned-roads leading to Nighasan village in Lakhimpur Kheri district are punctuated with riot-gear-ready cops and there is a palpable tension in the air.

Cops steal suspicious glances at this correspondent as asks around for the house of Intezam Ali. As we quiz Ali, about 50 villagers crowd around Ali's thatched-roof hut and each one of them wants to register their anger.


'My daughter was 11, not 14 as shown in the media'

Image: Police deployment near Ali's thatched-roof hut at Nighasan village
Photographs: Sahim Salim/

More than a week ago, Ali's 14-year-old daughter, Sonam, was found hanging from a felled tree inside the local police station premises. While initially the local cops dismissed the case as suicide by possibly influencing the post mortem report, a second post mortem report, which took place after angry villagers protested, says the girl was strangled to death.

Sonam's parents, however, dismiss even the second post mortem report. Her mother, Tarannum Ali, says that the cops even lied about her daughter's age.

"My daughter was 11, not 14 as shown in the media," Tarannum says.


'My daughter was raped and then murdered by some policemen'

Image: Sonam's mother Tarannum Ali
Photographs: Sahim Salim/

"The police are just cooking up more stories. My daughter was raped and then murdered by some policemen inside the police station. My son, Armaan, is an eye-witness to the whole incident," Ali says.

On the fateful day, Intezam had gone to the neighbouring Shahjahanpur to distribute invites of his eldest daughter Ruksana's wedding, scheduled to take place on June 27.

"Sonam and Armaan were at home, when at around 10 am, our buffalo wandered away from our field. I still curse myself for it, but it was I who asked Sonam to go after the buffalo. Dutiful as she was, she went, with Armaan behind her. At about 12 pm, the buffalo came back on its own, but there was no sign of either Sonam or Armaan. I began to get worried," Tarannum says.

Tarannum says that it never occurred to her to look inside the police station.

'Police stations are supposed to be safe'

Image: The Nighasan police station
Photographs: Sahim Salim/

"Police stations are supposed to be safe. I assumed they would inform us if Sonam was there. I looked everywhere else, but I could not find my children. Sometime in the evening, I found Armaan at a neighbour's house, watching TV. When I asked him where Sonam was, he looked scared and did not say anything," Tarannum says.

Urged by his mother, five-year-old Armaan, continued the horrifying tale, "The buffalo had strayed into the police station compound. Two policemen came and took us both inside the police station. One of the policemen took my sister inside a room, while another made me sit on the floor outside the room. I could hear voices."

"Two times, the policeman inside asked my sister to sit where she was and not to get up after she said she wanted to go home. After that, my sister started screaming. Sometime later, the policeman came outside and told me he would beat me if I said anything to anybody. I looked inside and saw my sister on the floor."

It was later revealed that the names of the two policemen that Armaan described are Vinay Kumar Singh and Shiv Kumar  -- both constables.

True enough, the boy slipped into a neighbour's house and watched TV, while his worried mother was looking all around for him. After he was found, he did not say anything to Tarannum out of fear. Later in the evening, Tarannum spotted her daughter in the back-yard of the police station hanging from a felled tree.

"Her position on the tree was what baffled me the most. A duppata was hung around her neck and she was in a kneeling position, like you would during a namaaz. How could she have committed suicide if her knees were on the ground? And moreover, she was 11. She did not even know what suicide is. I asked the policemen inside, but they said they had no idea how she reached there. Then I questioned my son. I had to slap him to make him tell me the whole story," Tarannum says.


'They had no reason to kill her'

Image: Sonam's five-year-old brother Armaan, an eyewitness to the incident
Photographs: Sahim Salim/

Mobile phones have not found their way into this village yet. And so, Tarannum had to call at a relative's house, where Ali was supposed to deliver an invite. Fortunately, Tarannum caught Ali while he was there.

"I rushed back, but I could only reach by night. I found a lot of people and policemen outside my house. Right from under our noses inside our house, a couple of policemen came and put our daughter's dead body in a white cloth. And like cattle are transported, both of them held either ends of the cloth and dragged her away. I rushed to the police station to accompany them to the hospital, but they had already left. We hired a car and rushed to the hospital, but they were done with the post mortem by then. We came back and asked the SHO, Ravi Srivastava, and he told us that the post mortem said she had committed suicide. I was shocked," Ali says.

After villagers staged protests and the news was picked up by the media, a second post mortem was ordered. Sonam's body was dug out and a panel of experts from Lucknow confirmed that the girl died due to strangulation and not asphyxia as ruled out by the earlier report. The second post mortem report, however, ruled out rape as well. 

"We are not satisfied with this explanation either. Why would the policemen just kill her? They had no reason to. We had no enmity with the policemen and Sonam's jewelry was found intact. There should be some reason for a murder. She was raped and we want a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry into this. We submitted an application with the district magistrate demanding a CBI probe into this. The guilty policemen cannot and should not be shielded," Ali says.


Meanwhile, preparations are on at the Ali household for Sonam's elder sister's marriage.

"It will take place as planned. Sonam was looking forward to the wedding and she had even chosen her dress. I will organise this wedding in her memory," Ali says.

Branch from which Sonam was found hanging is not even 4 ft tall

Image: The tree at the police station compound where Sonam's body was found hanging
Photographs: Sahim Salim/

The new station-in-charge of Nighasan police station assumes a busy look when we went in to talk to him about his views of the case.

"We don't know anything. We were posted here two days after the incident and we are not even investigating the case anymore. None of the policemen from then is present here," says the new-in charge, Inspector Nitin Kumar.

In a surprising move, all the officers of the police station on duty on the day of incident have been suspended. In all, 11 cops, including SHO Ravi Srivastava have been suspended.

"I don't understand why they have suspended all the policemen. They are hiding them because they want to save them. If they bring all 11 here, my son can identify the guilty policemen," alleges Ali. went to view the branch from which Sonam was found hanging. It is a felled tree in the back-compound of the police station premises. The tree is old and villagers say it had fallen down during a storm months ago. The branch from which Sonam was found hanging is not even four feet from the ground.

Politicians having a field day over the issue

Image: CPI-M activists protesting against the incident at the local market
Photographs: Sahim Salim/

Meanwhile, opposition parties are having a field day at the Nighasan Market Square. Activists from the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist have declared a hunger strike and local leaders from both parties could be seen thrashing Chief Minister Mayawati for the lack of law and order in the state.

What was heartening to see, however, was a parallel protest being organised by the villagers themselves. There are no political statements here, just senior villagers voicing their concerns.


'Sonam was our daughter, a daughter of this village'

Image: Fatima, and elderly villager, addresses a gathering to protest 'police atrocities' against Sonam
Photographs: Sahim Salim/

"Police is an institution that is supposed to protect us. If they themselves become our attackers, who will save us? We need to stand up against the atrocity committed against one of our own. Don't sit back in your homes thinking it does not bother you because it was not your daughter. Sonam was our daughter, a daughter of this village," an elderly villager, Fatima shouts on the loudspeaker on a temporary square bang opposite the police station. 

After her speech, Fatima tells, "Let politicians do what they have to. But we as villagers need to address our concerns. The police have committed such an unthinkable act. And they are shamelessly defending the act too. We chose this place specially to tell the policemen that their gunda raaj won't work here. We are not scared of them."