News Story

Lonesome battle for justice

by Vaidehi Sachin (Nov_15_30_2011)

Suspected rape and murder at BJP National President Nitin Gadkari's house: Family fights a lone battle for justice her daughter.

A garlanded photograph of Yogita in her blue and white school uniform takes pride of place in the Thakre family's home on a narrow terrace. She used to wear a red thread, a symbol of her family deity, and believed no harm could come to her. Yogita, a class III student, was a lively and popular girl and usually accompanied her mother Vimal, a domestic worker, to the Mahal area in Nagpur. Everyone knew her there, including the vendors. She often sat and sold vegetables for them. She also knew the two police guards at the house of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nitin Gadkari, who has a three-storey house there called ‘Bhakti.'

The post mortem report of seven-year-old Yogita Thakre, who was found dead inside a parked car allegedly owned by then BJP state president and now national president Nitin Gadkari at his Mahal residence on May 19, 2009 has many shocking revelations that can leave cops red-faced.

The post mortem report, a copy of which is available, strongly indicates foul play. It mentions crucial aspects like abrasion inside vagina and smothering as the cause of Yogita's death. The report, signed by Government Medical College and Hospital's head of forensic department Dr. P G Dixit, indicates abrasion as well as blood clots in the inner vagina. The report also says that there were dried blood stains over the right thigh and inner sides of both thighs. The doctors have indicated that there are small blood stains over the underwear. A neutral forensic expert, who studied and interpreted the report, suggested that the blood must have oozed in such a quantity from private parts that it got soaked and appeared on the underwear.

Against this backdrop, the cops are waiting for chemical analysis report before changing the case to that of rape and murder case. Then ACP, Kotwali division, Jivraj Dabhade, however, said, "Indications in the post mortem report are not enough to register a case of rape and murder. We are waiting for the chemical analysis report."

“She even gave his police guards sweets on her birthday and when she passed her exams,” says Ms. Vimal Thakre. On May 19, 2009, it was just another day for her. It was vacation time and Yogita came with her to work in the houses opposite the Gadkari wada as it's known in Nagpur. “I had lunch with her around 2 p.m. and then I last saw her at 3.30 p.m. when she was in the guard room at Gadkari's house. She was talking to the guards there and I told them to keep an eye on her. These are decent people, I trusted them,” says Vimal.

That was the last time she ever saw Yogita. At around 5.30 p.m. she had finished some of her work and realised her daughter was not in the bazaar area. “I searched everywhere, I asked the police guard at Gadkari's house too and he said he didn't know since he had gone to the toilet. I ran around for two hours and came back to the “wada” and then Gadkari's driver told me Yogita was asleep in one of the cars. I was surprised since she never fiddled with cars. I went to the car, a big white one and my daughter was lying in it. They told me to take her away quickly. A doctor had come to see her and I think he said she was dead,” recounted a distraught Vimal.

Mr. Gadkari's house is located in the crowded area of Mahal. There is an iron gate now leading to the three-storied house with a guard room on one side. There is a modest parking space in the front of the house, inside the gate. Yogita was found in one of the cars parked in the compound that evening.

Haunted by her daughter's death, Vimal has been mentally affected, say her two other daughters, Kiran and Nisha. In an interview to BTN, the mother said Yogita's body was completely wet and when she held her in her lap, even her sari became soggy. “Her eyes were open and she looked as if she'd seen something horrible. There were nail marks on her forehead. I tried to revive her with water but she was bleeding and her mouth was full of blood. When I took her home, my husband came to carry her and his shirt was covered with blood.” When she picked up her daughter, she saw the police guard cycling away.

Despite being in the police, he never informed the local police station about Yogita's death.

“What did my child do to deserve this fate,” she wept. “She was young and full of life,” she said. Vimal is on medication for high blood pressure and has become very thin. But she is clear, like her other two daughters: “I want justice. My daughter did not die a natural death. She had blood on her body and private parts. I want to know who did this heinous act. I don't want money,” she cried.

The few people who have come forward to help the Thakre family have backed off, except for their old neighbour, Kishore Ingle, who has been charged with blackmail by Mr. Gadkari for allegedly demanding money from him. Mr. Ingle has been charge sheeted for this offence and the case is in court. Yogita's 18- year- old sister, Kiran, is spearheading the fight for justice for her sister. She has filed innumerable RTI queries on her mother's behalf for documents which show that the death was a mysterious one. “We even had to file an RTI for a copy of the FIR,” she said.

The last two years have been a nightmare for the family and they had to move from their house at Rahatekar wadi to two leaky rooms on a terrace nearby. Her mother has lost some of her household work in the old area. They were pressured by goondas and many people to back off and even offered money. “Sometimes we feel we have done some crime,” Kiran rued.

Cops making Yogita case an exception? 

Are Nagpur police adopting a different criterion in case of Yogita Thakre compared to similar cases they handled in the past? It would seem so. Consider these cases:

1. Six persons raped and killed a five-year-old at Jagtap layout in May 2008. MIDC police acted promptly on available evidence and even arrested the accused including some minors in the case.

2. A four-year-old was raped and murdered by a family friend in April 2008. Wadi police registered an offence of rape and murder in the case just from observations on the body.

3. Six-year-old was found raped and murdered at Anand Nagar in MIDC in February 2007. The cops again registered an offence based on prima facie evidence.

4. A 14-year-old boy was found brutally killed after apparently being sodomised in April 2008. Yashodhara Nagar police again registered a case of unnatural sex and murder.

In each of these cases, the police registered an offence on their own by looking at the condition and injury marks on the body. They did not wait even for post mortem report in some cases. In none of the cases did they go in for chemical analysis report. Now consider the case of 7-year-old Yogita. It is still being probed as an accidental death by Kotwali police despite tell-tale signs of rape and murder.

Even the post mortem report in the case mentioned injuries and blood clots inside vagina, abrasions and blood stains in the inner side of the thighs and nine injuries on her body. It gave reason of her death as smothering.

Yet, assistant government pleaders pleaded before the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court that police were waiting for the chemical analysis’s report before they could even file a reply.

Gadkari aides and police had claimed that the girl was suffering from a complex congenital defect in the heart. It was also being projected that the girl had died due to suffocation inside the car that had automatically got locked.

These were belied in post mortem report. The report prepared by forensic experts of the government medical college and hospital (GMCH) suggested the cause of death ‘smothering’ and not suffocation. Still, a case of murder has not been registered for reasons best known to the cops.

There were nine injuries on the victim’s body. The experts had also opined that the injuries were caused by ‘hard and rough surface’, the kind that did not exist inside the luxury car. Police had claimed that injuries on Yogita were old. The post mortem report said that the injuries were fresh.

The alleged police inaction has compelled Yogita’s parents— Vimal and Ashok— to file a criminal writ petition at the high court.

Police version contradict

The ACP's statement contradicts many instances in which cases of rape and murder have been registered on the basis of post-mortem report. In fact, in some cases, say experts, cases of rape have even been registered on the basis of the complainant's statement.

"Waiting for the chemical analysis report to register rape in this case is a mere eyewash. This is because there is little chance of finding seminal deposits as penetration would be extremely difficult with a child. The attempt of forced penetration may have resulted in abrasion and blood," said an expert, who refused to be identified. "In fact, rectum swab should have been also preserved and sent too," he said.

The post mortem report's column no. 17 (Surface wounds and injuries) suggests that there are nine injuries, including three contusions, which need significant force, on the victim's body. "The contusions over gums and lips suggest that the victim's mouth was forced shut. Similarly, the position of the abrasion of left side of the fore-head, back of the ear and back of the neck suggests that there might be a force used to pin down her head while mouth was being shut," said the expert.

Interestingly, injuries in the brain and indications of dotted haemorrhage were also indicated in the report. There was haemorrhage in the lungs too, the report said. According to experienced forensic expert, the column no 19 (Head) and 20 (Thorax) indicated 'violent asphyxial death.'
Experts say there is no definite time frame within which the chemical report is expected. The samples for chemical analysis have been sent to the regional forensic science laboratory in Nagpur.

HC expressed surprise over case

The HC expressed surprise over police department's efforts to file a case of negligence against Yogita's mother, police guard and driver of the car. The court asked the cops to take a fresh look at their decision and inform about it. The petitioners --Vimal and Ashok Thakre, parents of the deceased -- had prayed for a CBI inquiry into the death of their daughter.

According to the petitioners, Yogita's body was found in the evening on May 19, 2009 inside a vehicle on the premises of Gadkari's residence in Mahal while her mother Vimal, a maid servant, was busy in her work in the area. However, it took police over six hours to formally register a complaint. Even after that, the cops were allegedly found wanting in the investigations and led the evidence to get destroyed. They also failed to seize the vehicle in which the body was found. Shockingly, they first registered a case of accidental death, then making a U-turn, made it a murder case and again, the cops came back to their original stand stating that Yogita's death was "accidental smothering". And hence, the petitioners were pressing for a CBI inquiry into the episode.

Khadse oppose CBI inquiry 

Mumbai, BJP group leader in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Eknath Khadse dared the state government in the assembly to conduct a CBI inquiry into the death of Yogita Thakre.

Replying to a point of propriety raised by NCP MLA Shashikant Shinde saying that the police was trying to cover up Ms Thakre’s murder as an accident since the case involves a senior BJP leader (Nitin Gadkari), Mr Khadse said NCP is part of the government, and can seek probe by central agencies in the case.

”The government, Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister is yours.

If you have guts, conduct CID, CBI inquiry in the case,” he said.

Mr Shinde raised the point of propriety when the Opposition tried to bring in an adjournment motion over the issue of morcha organised by the city mill workers’ today. When the Speaker rejected the demand saying that a morcha cannot be the issue for adjournment motion, the Opposition protested and the ruling members objected to it.