January 27: body of a 16-year-old girl found in Barhi on GT Road in Hazaribagh. Post-mortem confirms rape
February 3: naked body of a 15-year-old girl recovered from a well in Banahappa village under Muffasil police station in Hazaribagh district. Post-mortem confirms rape
Hazaribagh, March 5: Investigations have already led to the identity of one of the two minors, confirming what the police have maintained all along that both victims weren’t local residents and were sexually assaulted and murdered outside the district, thereby reaffirming Hazaribagh’s dubious status as a dumping yard for bodies.
Records at sadar hospital suggest that the victims are mostly young women.
Last year, 14 bodies — all of women — were recovered from different places of the district. The identities of eight are yet to be ascertained. Of these eight, six were victims of rape and all were teenagers.
Similarly, in 2011, 15 bodies were found, including eight victims of rape whose identities are not known.
In November 2012, parents of a 31-year-old widow reached Hazaribagh from Sasaram in Bihar and identified her body from a photograph after it was found in Barhi and cremated by social worker Mohammad Khalid some 18 months ago. Later, Sasaram police cracked the case, confirming murder over a love affair gone wrong in Dobhi, Gaya.
So, what makes Hazaribagh a universal cemetery?
The district, some 90km from Ranchi, is strategically located on GT Road that makes it an important transit point. NH-33, which connects the two state capitals of Ranchi and Patna, also passes through the district meeting GT Road in Barhi.
Several thousand vehicles coming from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or even Delhi — the country’s indisputable rape capital — cross the district taking GT Road to reach Calcutta. Hence, busy traffic, coupled with lax highway policing, provides criminals the perfect cover.
Local residents said patrolling should be stepped up and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed at various points between Chouparan and Barkatha, a stretch 70km.
Barhi DSP Binod Kumar Singh, however, claimed that they maintained round-the-clock vigil. “We keep constant tabs on criminal activities,” he said, but failed to explain the steady influx of bodies into the district from other parts of the state and country.
DSP Singh said that the January 27 victim was not a local resident. “She was from Barkatha, 30km from where her body was found. Doctors said she was strangulated,” he said. Sub-inspector Dileep Ram of Muffasil police station said the Banahappa victim too was an outsider who was strangled. The village is situated along NH-100 and connects the district with Bokaro and Giridih.
Khalid, the good Samaritan who has taken it upon himself to perform the last rites of all unclaimed bodies, pointed out that crimes against women had increased in the past couple of years.
“In October 2012, the body of a woman was recovered from Padma. Her throat had been slit. In November, another victim was found in Ichak. In both cases post-mortem confirmed rape,” he said.
Padma and Ichak are situated on the Ranchi-Patna road, aka NH-33.
Not just young women, victims often belong to the opposite sex and age is no bar.
In fact, the bodies of two coal traders murdered in February over a business row in Bokaro Thermal, 25km away, were also found on the banks of a river in Hazaribagh.
Police records confirm Hazaribagh Lake, located near the highway, as the favourite watery grave. In 2005, three bodies, including that of a girl, were found in the lake. All the victims were from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
Apart from the lake area, most bodies are found in Barhi, Chouparan on GT Road, Ichak and Padma.
On what the district police were doing to check this bizarre body business, DSP Singh said instructions had been issued to local thanas to remain alert 24x7.
“We have also installed CCTV cameras at the toll plaza of Rasoidhamna in Barhi,” he said, but at the same time admitted that it was an impossible task to keep track of every passing vehicle.