PUCL Bulletin, Oct. 1981

Murder in Meerut
By Sudip Mazumdar

Dates February 26 & 27, 1981
Place: Shahdara, Delhi

Name: Ramesh Kumar, 25 years old
Occupation: Truck Driver

On a winter night last February, Ramesh and his truck were stopped by the Meerut police and he was taken into police custody. Two days later his body, the head severed from the neck, was by chance found by his brother, Krishan, in a .mortuary in Meerut. The body was about to be cremated by the police who had declared it as "unclaimed and unidentified."

The detention, release and death of Ramesh Kumar remains an unexplained episode of police highhanded-ness and brutality, even though a magisterial inquiry was ordered a few days after the death. The people Shahdara demonstrated before the Home Minister's house and demanded a high-level inquiry by the CBI which had been, as usual, ignored by the Govern-ment. The result of the magisterial inquiry also remains in the dark. The fact remains that Ramesh, with no criminal record and for no crime whatsoever, became a victim of police terror.

The police theory of Ramesh's detention and death and subsequent attempts to a cover-up is fraught with inconsistencies and contradictions. A few other agencies, knowingly or unknowingly, helped the police to spread its theory.

The versions of S.S. Yadav, the Station House Officer of Lal Kurti police station where Ramesh was kept for the night, and Ajai Raj Sharma, Senior Superintendent of Police, differ.

According to Sharma, Ramesh was asked to stop by a police party and he tried to speed away. So, he was stopped and detained. Yadav, on the other hand, said Ramesh was detained by the police because he was not carrying registration papers and his driving licence.

What happened to Ramesh on the night of February 26-27 at the Lal Kurti police station is not known. According to Yadav, Ramesh was let off in the morning and he went to Noorul Hassan, a transport com-pany owner, who is also the Police's star witness. Surpri-singly, only Noorul Hassan and policemen saw Ramesh after his supposed .release from the police station. It was only Krishan who discovered the body of his brother on March 1. Most witnesses who claimed to have knowledge appeared to be doctored by the police. Even the inquiry office of the magistrate was teeming with policemen, both in uniform and plain-clothes. The police produced several witnesses to support the following theory:

After his release from the police station, unharmed, Ramesh came to the Meerut-Hapur railway line. He walked along the railway line from the Meerut-Delhi highway, towards the Meerut railway station. On both sides of the railway line on an embankment, there were potato fields where a number of farmers were working. It was around 3.30 p.m. Ramesh, looking dejected, walked listlessly towards a stationary goods train and leaving four or five wagons from the tail-end he craw-led under a wagon. He lay face down, his body bet-ween the tracks and head outside. After a few minu-tes the train started moving and the wheels severed his head from the body. The body was discovered by the Gateman of 55-A level crossing Munna, who brou-ght two gangmen. The gangmen sat near the corpse with lantern to keep a vigil throughout the night during which it rained also. Next day the Meerut police took away the body. A postmortem was done and then the body was to be cremated.

This story looks like a fabrication if certain facts are taken into account, not to talk of the differences in police versions.

First, between the time (3.30 p.m. of February 27) of death and recovery (2 p.m. on February 28) of the body, at least 14 trains crossed the supposed spot of Ramesh's death. There were 28 men in 14 train engines and 14 guards. None of them reported to either Meerut City or Kharkauda railway stations that a body was lying on the track. Moreover, two so-called gangmen were also sitting next to the body all this while guarding the corpse: None stopped a train to report the "accident". This is unheard of in rail-way history.

Secondly, the records at Meerut City railway station show that no gangmen were assigned the job of guar-ding the body.

Thirdly, no train stopped at the supposed spot around 3.30 p.m. when the death is alleged to have occurred.

Fourthly, the police said that the severed head was lying for about 24 hours just 2 inches from the railway rack. But experts say that if a slow-moving wheel severs the head from the neck, the head should fling away at least a few feet. And there was a slope which means the head should roll down.

Fifthly, there were a few papers in Ramesh's pocket which could identify him. Still, the police were about to cremate him declaring his body "unclaimed and unidentified". He spent a whole night at the police station and no policeman recognised him when his body was found.

A second postmortem was done at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. The team of doctors headed by Dr. T.D. Dogra, remarked that "death due to traumatic amputation of the head from neck. The injuries are ante-mortem and could be caused by rail-way accident."

Dr. Dogra, when questioned, refused to say what he meant by "railway accident". But his remark was conveniently used by the Meerut police who planted story through PTI saying that the second post-mor-tem has conclusively proved that the death was a suicide under the railway wheels.

What is shocking is that despite so many blatant contradictions in the police theory, neither the State government nor the Central Government has ordered high-level inquiry. The silence on their part amou-nts to legitimising an unpro-voked and illegal police killing.

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