Phoolan's murder riddle yet to be deciphered by the police
THE PHOOLAN Devi murder case continues to baffle the police as new facts emerge every day, making it virtually impossible for investigating agencies to reach any conclusion.
The case with the Delhi Police has been further complicated by some irresponsible and unexplained lapses on part of the Uttaranchal Police whose offices are more keen to give sound bytes to television channels rather than concentrating on gathering information about the prime suspects.
Further, the investigations have been convoluted by unverified revelations that point the needle of suspicion towards both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party. The Delhi Police officials, in that sense, have been sensible not jumping to any conclusion in respect of the involvement of any political party in the dastardly crime.
The investigations, however, so far suggest that there is a lot more than that meets the eye in the Phoolan Devi case. The one-time bandit queen became the victim of a well-thought out conspiracy involving both cover-up and diversionary elements aimed at misleading detectives. Why else would Delhi Police revise its sequence of events every day if this was not the case?
The most intriguing aspect of the killing is that the police are yet to establish a well-defined motive behind it. The Behmai revenge theory is very thin on credibility and the theory that Sher Singh Rana killed Phoolan to contest future elections from a Rajput dominated constituency seems unbelievable.
Somehow, the simplistic explanations sought to be given by the police sound most unconvincing. In fact, the police have yet to find corroborative evidence in respect of even the involvement of Sher Singh Rana in the actual shooting. The well-planned killing, it seems, had been designed to put the police detectives to their severest test so far.
While the Delhi Police have been groping in the dark over the possible motive, the Uttaranchal Police have been springing surprises by occasionally holding back valuable information from the investigators. For instance, the fact that Sher Singh Rana was indeed involved in criminal cases previously was never shared either with the Delhi Police or the media during the first two-three days of investigation by the Uttaranchal police.
On their part, Delhi Police too have goofed up in this case a few times. For instance, the recovery of two weapons from Phoolan's garage some days after the killing showed both the police and the SPG in poor light. Everyone knows that Prime Minister Vajpayee and Mrs Sonia Gandhi, both SPG protectees, visited Phoolan's house a days after the murder. How come the weapons were not recovered when the SPG may have, or at least should have, conducted anti-sabotage and anti-explosive checks at the house?
The entire episode reminds one of the Yamuna Vihar multiple murder cases where the police declared the missing member of the family as the prime suspect after they discovered four bodies in the house. Within 24 hours, the police cut a sorry figure when the body of the missing member was found in a box in the house itself.
In the Phoolan case, while the police now grapple with the intricacies of the conspiracy, the two main political parties are engaged in an exercise to derive maximum advantage from the crime.
The police, however, have not yet questioned at length either the UP Home Minister who visited Phoolan's house a days before the murder, or the MP who dropped her at 44, Ashoka Road on that fateful afternoon.
In political circles opinion appears to be divided on who out of the Samajwadi Party or the BJP could be behind the incident. One suggestion is that the Samajwadi Party would gain backward votes if it is established that the BJP had a hand in the murder. If this assumption proves correct, then the BJP would also be able to consolidate its upper caste vote bank. Simultaneously, there is an assumption that Phoolan was about to join the BJP and had been eliminated by her own partymen. If the BJP, however, was to admit her, then their own upper caste vote bank would have been affected. Something which no political party can afford to do.
Finally, for those who enjoy conspiracy theories, there is another assumption that the BJP did it in such a manner that the blame could be easily passed on to the Samajwadi Party. This way the upper caste vote bank of the BJP would remain intact while the backward vote bank of the Samajwadi Party would be eroded considerably.
But political gossip and theories do not necessarily conform to the tough parameters of criminal investigations and jurisprudence. Political parties normally have their vested interests and in this case it is more so since the elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly are round the corner. Therefore, to give credence to any of the theories mentioned above would not only be pre-mature but without any scientific basis.
It is true that the police are caught in an extremely peculiar situation where the investigations involve political ramifications and at the same time demand total objectivity and adherence to the truth. The findings so far have left a lot to be desired and in real terms while the Delhi Police seem to be on the top of the case, the truth may be totally different. In addition to the political dimensions of the case, the police have also to probe the conduct of those who could be beneficiaries of the killing. In this context Phoolan's husband, Umed Singh could be called as a suspect. But in all fairness to him, till the time the police are able to find evidence linking him to the murder, he should be treated as totally innocent.
Phoolan's sister Munni Devi has been very vocal in this respect and has openly accused her brother-in-law of masterminding the killing. Her accusations, however, have to be taken with a pinch of salt since she is nursing political ambitions and has made it known that she would be contesting the Mirzapur seat on the Samajwadi Party ticket. Munni Devi's press conference on Friday had a clear-cut objective and therefore, what she speaks should not influence investigations as the police should arrive at their own conclusions, independent of views expressed by either individuals or political parties.
Umed Singh too had held a press conference earlier this week where he announced the formation of a trust to manage Phoolan's property. Obviously, he had done so at the behest of some people close to him who wanted to ensure that Phoolan's property and assets remained out of bounds for some of her close relatives.
Therefore, the police probe should ensure that while the truth behind the killing comes out, the role of various individuals and political parties, if any, is also thoroughly investigated. There should be no room for any doubt after the investigations are completed. And no concession should be given to any political party if its involvement is established. Between us.