The abduction, repeated rape and subsequent murder of Reshma Khatoon in Patna by men too close to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have sent shock waves among the Muslims of the state as never since 1990 any female member of the community had met such a tragic end. Ironically, this happened to her even when she wrote a letter to the chief minister and sent its copies to the leader of the opposition, Rabri Devi, chief secretary, director general of police and several reporters of television channels expressing fear that she would be eliminated any moment. Shridhar Mandal, one of the deputy superintendents of police posted in Patna, accepted before the television channel that the police had received the letter some days back. Many media-persons had the copy of the letter before her death. And immediately after receiving the letter from the girl, five days before her body was recovered, Rabri Devi forwarded it to the DGP requesting prompt action in this regard. In spite of all these confirmations, top officials and the chief minister’s office deny that they had received any letter. In fact they want to create suspicion and doubt by raising some fantastic questions about the girl and her character.
The official denial was ‘understandable’ as those charged in the letter were none else but, Anant Singh, the AK-47 man in the Nitish camp, Mukesh Singh, a builder and Anant’s guard Bipin Singh. Anant is the Janata Dal (United) MLA from Mokamah, an assembly segment in Barh from where Nitish used to represent in Parliament till 2004. He is a Bhumihar, the caste which is virtually ruling Bihar, and has a number of cases against him. Sometimes back he weighed Nitish in the silver coin which the media promptly highlighted. Anant and his aides openly brandish AK-47 rifles yet the police of Susashan (good governance, the phrase often used by Nitish) never arrest him.
In spite of all these pleas for safety the police on October 31 night recovered a decomposed body of a young woman in a bag in a posh locality not far from Nitish’s own official residence. The police incidentally recovered a copy of the same letter from her purse.
The following morning on November 1 one of the journalists, Prakash Singh of NDTV, who had already got this letter before the death of the woman, approached Anant Singh for his version of the story as everyone had been suspecting his involvement.
Prakash and cameraman Habib Ali reached there after seeking appointment with Anant Singh over phone. But moments after reaching there both were brutally thrashed and made hostage for about one hour. They were abused, attacked with butts of the rifles and kicked; their camera, mobile phones and window screens of their vehicle were smashed.
Habib managed to escape but Prakash remained in custody. After his escape Habib rushed to the state police headquarters. The police rushed to the spot and so did the other journalists. But seeing these media-persons Anant and his men once again went into action and thrashed them black and blue. The police arrived there, but remained mute spectator – in fact supported the MLA and his men. Ajay Kumar, the photographer of ANI, had his hand fractured in this incident.
It was after three-four hours of persuasion that the police managed to arrest Anant. The Patna SP stood outside his residence for hours before succeeding. After remaining incommunicado for several hours the chief minister, Nitish Kumar, finally ordered a CBI inquiry into the incident.
But that was not all. While being taken to jail from the court, which remanded him to 14 days custody, Anant’s henchmen once again went berserk. Outside the Beur Jail they attacked a few cameramen standing there. Late at night too many of the senior scribes of Patna received threatening phone calls from jail and outside. On November 2 the opposition parties called for bandh in protest against the murder of Reshma and subsequent attack on journalists.
According to her letter sometimes back she approached Mukesh Singh, a reputed builder belonging to the Bhumihar caste for job. Mukesh took her away and raped her and then passed her on to Anant Singh, who raped her twice. After that his bodyguard, Bipin Singh, too outraged her modesty. The letter said she was repeatedly threatened by them that she would be eliminated if she made any disclosure.
The letter said that on the morning of October 10 last Mukesh Singh took her to Anant Singh, where he offered her huge amount of money to file a case against an MLC belonging to another party. The letter concluded saying that by the time this letter reaches you “I may be dead”.
After all that efforts are on to bail out Anant and his men. They were only charged with assault on mediapersons. The police are yet to book him for the alleged murder of Reshma.
Meanwhile, the postmortem report done by Dr Pankaj Kumar, could not confirm how she was murdered as the body was badly decomposed. Reshma’s brother, Munna, talked over phone to NDTV but is afraid of taking the body. How can he come to see, identify and take the body in the state where top journalists are being beaten up so thoroughly with administration nowhere in the scene.
The ruling class is now busy in the disinformation campaign against the victim. Some Muslim leaders of the party, out of love for Nitish, are saying that the woman is not Muslim. She is just Reshma and not Reshma Khatoon, one of them told this correspondent. They are now charging the opposition party of making her Reshma Khatoon, when the fact is that it all started after the media approached Anant Singh. Till then opposition had nothing to do. But they were all silenced when four days later it was discovered that the dead woman was in fact a Muslim and none else but sister-in-law (wife’s younger sister) of Anant Singh’s driver.