The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhar arrest raises brows

Bhopal, May 16: Madhya Pradesh police today produced in a Dhar court a man they claimed attacked supervisor Shakuntala Verma and took him in remand till Thursday.

The arrest has raised several questions as the police have failed to spell out the motive for the attack and the accused, Suresh Kaluram alias Chhota Gudda, has pleaded not guilty.

Twenty-three-year-old Gudda is a resident of Rajgarh village, living barely 250 metres away from Shakuntala’s house. The magistrate at Sardarpur court in Dhar declined to accept the police demand for custody till May 25 and settled for May 19. When Gudda was presented in the court, he kept shouting: “I am innocent. I am being trapped.”

Chief minister Babulal Gaur again denied a link between the attack on Shakuntala and child marriage. In a news conference in Delhi, Gaur reiterated the incident had nothing to do with child marriage.

Asserting that no incident of child marriage was reported in the area where Shakuntala was working, Gaur said: “It was a sad incident and the government has taken it very seriously. The government has given the woman Rs 1 lakh as compensation, is bearing the entire expense for her treatment and will provide her with whatever help she needs life long.”

In Bhopal, several women’s non-government organisations alleged the police’s promptness to solve the case appeared more like a cover-up than an attempt to bring justice.

Gaur today gave a clean chit to state social welfare minister Narain Singh Kushwaha, who was reported to have attended a child marriage on May 11. Gaur ruled out Kushwaha’s removal, saying no complaints had been received about his alleged presence at the ceremony.

In her first statement, Shakuntala had mentioned one Gopal Nagora as the person who had threatened her but the police have not been able to establish a link between Nagora and Gudda. P.L. Pandey, inspector-general, Indore range, however, seemed convinced his force had solved the case.

He said Gudda was held after Shakuntala recognised his sketch from among 10 shown to her. “As we all know, Shakuntala Verma is currently in the ICU; so identification of someone is not possible. Instead, we showed her sketches and she identified Chhota Gudda.” But he added that Gudda had denied a hand in the incident.

Pandey said Gudda, a history-sheeter, could not explain what he was doing on May 10 evening when the supervisor was attacked in her Rajgarh village home.

“He claimed he was making raw liquor between 3 pm and 6 pm and took a bath before settling to watch television with his wife and sister-in-law. But his wife has denied it all.”

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