| Akshay Thakur’s father Saryug Singh covers his face in distress at Lahangkarma village in Aurangabad. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Lahangkarma (Aurangabad), Jan. 13: This is two seconds of fame the nondescript village feels it could have done without.
Tucked away in a remote corner of the state close to the Jharkhand border, Lahangkarma has drawn the world’s eyes as the native hamlet of Akshay Thakur, one of six accused in the brutal gang rape and murder of a para-medical student in New Delhi last month.
Residents of the hard-to-find village, located 60km from Aurangabad and 130km southwest from Patna, say Akshay has left a black spot on the face of Lahangkarma and its small population of 300. The 24-year-old youth is facing trial in the case that has shaken up the conscience of the world for its sheer brutality and heinousness.
Village elder Swaroop Pandey (80), who has seen Akshay grow up, told The Telegraph: “It is really a matter of shame that Lahangkarma is now known as the home of a rapist. I have seen him since childhood, he was not like this but god knows what he did in Delhi and what kind of friend circle he had. I cannot deny what he did because you never know what your children do once they go out and once they are not in front of your eyes.”
“I have two grandsons and they are studying in school, they are very good in my eyes but I do not know what they do when they go to school. This would have been the same case, Akshay must have been good in the village but I cannot vouch for his actions when he is away.”
Bhanu Pratap, about the same age as the rape accused, said Akshay may have picked up the vices of life in Chhattisgarh, where he used to work before going to Delhi.
“Akshay worked in a liquor factory in Chhattisgarh and he may have taken up drinking there. It’s like man working in a coal mine but not having a black mark on his body,” Bhanu said.
At the entrance of the village is a higher secondary school and a Shiva temple from where one has to walk about 200 metres to reach Akshay’s single-storied cemented house. There is no electricity in the village and the residents draw power illegally by hooking from the electricity pole.
Preferring anonymity, one of the villagers admitted: “There is no use telling lies and I accept that we have this habit of fixing a hook on the electric pole because there is an acute power shortage. When Delhi police visited our village (December 20, 2012) to search for Akshay, we thought they were here to catch us but later we came to know that the matter is something else. We have to be more careful now because after the incident in Delhi our village has become the centre of attraction for all the wrong reasons.”
Akshay isn’t the first from the area with a dark spot. One of the key accused in the 1995 Purulia arms drop incident belongs to the nearby village of Bhagwankarma. But Lahangkarma itself has been relatively free of crime and there was nothing to suggest why a ordinary youth would suddenly turn killer.
At the modest, four-room home of Akshay, his father Saryug Singh, a farmer, and mother Malti Devi are still in a daze, and cannot believe their youngest son is accused in such a brutal crime.
“For the past six months, ever since he went to Delhi, he has hardly had any contact with me. Sometimes he would call his wife and enquire about their one-and-a-half-year-old son,” said Saryug.
Akshay’s wife Punita said her husband had told her that he was a bus helper in Delhi. “He never used to talk about his activities in Delhi and just used to ask about the health of our son, nothing more than that,” she said.
Abhay Singh, the second son of Saryug and Malti, said Akshay did not send any money home ever since he shifted to Delhi. “He would send some money when he was in Chhattisgarh. He never disclosed anything about his salary to anyone in the family,” said Abhay, who works in Manesar in Haryana and had come to be with his parents following the turmoil over his younger brother. The eldest brother Vinay works in Gurgaon.
The Telegraph also tried to find out what drove Akshay to carry out such a vicious crime.
Govind Prasad Singh (66), another village elder, said: “I really do not know what made him so cruel. It cannot be anything that happened in our village. We knew him as a well-mannered boy but we have no idea what kind of friend circle he kept in Delhi. There is a saying Sangat Se Goon Hoat Hai aur Sangat Se Goon Jaat (A person’s character is formed or destroyed by the company he keeps).”
Many of the residents of the village refused to give out their names as they say it would bring shame upon themselves. “We do not want to be associated with his name or his act. Whatever he was, good or bad, he has now maligned the reputation of Lahangkarma village. We would not like to say anything more about him,” said a 60-year-old resident.