In a most gruesome murder, a man in Uttar Pradesh had his limbs chopped off, was tied to cot and set ablaze.
Family says he had no enmity with anyone; they can think of no names as suspects. There has been no headway in this case even after a week.
Early morning on 17 June, Om Prakash Saroj received information from fellow villagers that the shed located in the midst of his field has been set on fire. He rushed to the spot — some 500 metres away from his house — and found the shed had been reduced to ashes. Even the motorcycle that was parked nearby had been burnt.
As he looked around to find his elder brother who had been sleeping there that night, the villagers splashed water on the blaze. The fire subsided and, to their horror, they saw the charred remains of a body. It was indeed Om Prakash’s elder brother, Vinay Saroj.
The body had not just been set ablaze but subjected to gruesome violence.
“Both his legs and arms had been chopped. It seemed like his throat was also slit. There was a belt tied around it. In the place of stomach, I saw only ash,” recalls Om Prakash.
Rajendra Prasad Chauraiya, former pradhan of the village who had helped douse the fire, says Vinay’s amputated body was tied with metal wires to his wooden cot.
The murder has shocked the village, Bela Rampur, located in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh district, some 90 kilomteres from Prayagraj. What adds further to their dismay is that more than a week on, the police have not made any headway in the case. The family has not named anybody as a suspect, and maintains that Vinay, 35, had no enmity with anyone.
“He was a very quiet and reserved person. We can think of absolutely no one to pin the blame on,” says Surya Prakash, Vinay’s younger brother.
Om Prakash says the doctor who performed the autopsy — on 17 June — too was stunned to see the body and asked him if Vinay was a ‘thekedar’ (contractor). “I said no. The doctor then asked if he was a broker or a fraudster. I said no, he was a just simple farmer. The doctor could not quite believe it,” says Om Prakash. “The doctor said the murder had been carried out with utmost brutality as if he was a criminal.”
The family had not received the medical report till 18 June when this correspondent visited the family.
The family did not file a first information report (FIR). When the police arrived at the spot, they recorded the statements of the victim’s family.
Station house officer (SHO) of Patti police thana, Akhilesh Pratap Singh, told this correspondent that the police filed a case against unknown men. He said investigation is on and the police have so far detained two men for questioning. These include Vinay’s partner in his small pig-farming business, one Prem Saroj. Prem also happens to be the brother of current village Pradhan (Head), also named Om Prakash Saroj.
The victim’s family, however, dismisses the possibility of Prem’s role in the case, saying he was like family.
Vinay’s brother, Om Prakash, recalls the events of the night: “My brother was watching the India-Pakistan cricket match at home with all of us. The electricity went off around 9.30pm. He went to the adjoining house where they have inverter. That house belongs to our close relatives. He returned from the house around 10.45pm.”
“Everything was fine till then,” he says.
The match had not got over but Vinay wanted to go sleep in the field for fear of stray cattle ruining his crops. The family runs a small pig farm in the field, a stone’s throw away from the shed. “My brother asked for keys to the one-room shed. He then gave me his mobile phone to put it on charging and left,” says Om Prakash, recalling that he did not want his brother to sleep alone but his brother was insistent.
Vinay, the eldest of four brothers, is survived by his wife and a three-year-old son. Vinay had been married before in 2008 but it had ended in a divorce. “His [first] wife was not of stable mind,” says a relative.
The family rubbishes the theory that Vinay had a scuffle over the cricket match, as suggested by a media report. “He watched cricket with our own family members and he did not tell us about any scuffle either. This is all rubbish,” says Om Prakash.
The family, however, suspects the involvement of some revellers in an under construction building about hundred metres away from the shed. Om Prakash says that the same day, some men partied till late in the night in the “upcoming farm house with meat, mutton and alcohol”. He cites several reasons for his suspicion, that are also supported by other villagers who visited the family on Tuesday.
One, the wire used for tying Vinay to the cot is similar to the wire found at the building. Two, it is not possible that his brother was subjected to such torture and the men in the building did not hear a thing. Three, the blood stains could be traced till there. Four, two men who are related to the partners in the farm house are criminal-minded.
However, the family offers no motive for the unknown revellers to commit such a heinous murder. Om Prakash doesn’t offer any names too.
The structure was vacant when this correspondent visited on 18 June.
Om Prakash says he shared with the police his suspicion verbally but the police are not taking it seriously. SHO Singh, on the other hand, told this correspondent that he has not received any such information. “As of now, the police are questioning all those who were with Vinay till he went off to sleep. Further investigations will take place based on their statements,” said Singh.
Residents say the village has not seen such a gruesome crime after 1998-99 when, they recall, a family of five was killed by yet unknown killers. As per the Pradhan, almost half the population in Bela Rampur are Dalits and they have never witnessed caste or communal strife in the past. Vinay’s family also belongs to a Scheduled Caste.
On 18 June, some local leaders of Bahujan Samaj Party visited the family and assured them help. Some days later, leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party also met the family, and promised them justice and compensation.
But with investigation so far throwing up no clues, the family and the village wonder if they would ever find out what caused Vinay to die such a barbaric death.