By Rakesh Lohumi | Shimla
Custodial death of Suraj, one of the five accused in the Gudia rape and murder case, on Wednesday led to violence in the Kotkhai area with angry protestors attacking policemen, ransacking the local police station and setting vehicles ablaze.
An irate mob also indulged in heavy stone pelting in which three policeman were injured. The police fired in air to disperse the mob but it had little effect and a determined section of protestors managed to enter the premises of the police station and threw out furniture, laptops, uniform and other office items and made a bonfire of it. A large number liquor bottles seized in various cases by the police and kept in the police station was also destroyed by the crowd. The police staff ran to safety as an unrelenting mob continued with the rampage.
Some of the protestors then moved to the adjoining village Kokunalla and set three police vehicles on fire.
The local people from Kotkhai and nearby villages starting marching towards the police station as soon as the news of death of Suraj , a Nepali labourer who was arrested along with four other accused, in police custody spread. The incident further fuelled the anger of the people who have been agitating in protest against the shoddy investigation by police in the case for the past over ten days. They gathered in strength and targeted the police personnel and the police station.
Vijay, one of the constables injured in mob violence, was referred to Indira Gandhi Medical College Hospital, Shimla , for treatment, while other injured policemen were provided medical care at the local hospital.
Confirming the custodial death Inspector General of Police, Southern Range, Z H Zaidi said that the incident took place past midnight in the lockup where the two accused were kept. The victim Suraj had an argument with the other accused Rajinder, alias Raju, and altercation ensued. Raju hit on the private parts of Suraj and banged his head on the wall. He was taken to hospital immediately where doctors declared him “brought dead”. According to sources Suraj , who was not involved in the rape, had while giving his version of the incident during police investigation allegedly put the entire blame on Raju, farm manager and driver, in whose pickup van the minor girl had taken lift.
In the dock for tardy probe into the case, the position of the police became all the more untenable following the custodial death. It immediately requested the government to order a judicial probe into the death and shifted the entire staff of the Kotkhai police station. Additional forces have been rushed from Shimla to maintain Law and order as the situation remain tense and explosive. .
Besides, Kotkhai, angry people also staged protests at Theog,Fagu , Dhalli, and Mashobra.They blocked the national highway at several places paralysing movement of vehicles in upper Shimla region.
Local people allege foul play in the custodial death and they are not buying the police story that one accused killed the other. They alleged it was a ploy to shield real culprits and the objective was to do away with a key witness in the case before the CBI took over the investigation.
Chief Minister , Virbhadra Singh, who was touring Mandi district, said that the Nepalese labourer killed while in custody was not the main accused. Police investigation was underway and the culprits in the case would be brought to book.