| Lepcha being taken away for questioning. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, March 11: An alleged attempt at sodomy, a beast that is usually brushed under the carpet to safeguard the morale of the men in uniform, drove a policeman to gun down at dawn five of his colleagues guarding a bank in the capital.
Constable Nari Lepcha of the India Reserve Battalion has confessed to shooting five of his colleagues after one of them tried to sodomise him at the Dena Bank branch in Daryaganj, where Mughal-era history lurks in every nook and corner.
The six policemen — all on deputation from Sikkim — were on night duty at the bank. The battalion is a central force but it is maintained by the Sikkim government to ease the pressure on the regular paramilitary wings.
Lepcha had earlier in the day tried to frame another Sikkim constable, Jai Bahadur Subba, who was not present at the time of the murders.
After interrogating both through the day, the police said Lepcha had confessed. “Under sustained questioning, he broke down and admitted that he had murdered his colleagues,” Alok Kumar, deputy commissioner of police (central Delhi ), said.
The shooting occurred around 4.30 am at the government-owned bank’s branch across the road from Golcha cinema, one of the landmarks in Daryaganj.
Subba told the police that he, too, was on duty with the six, but did not report for work last night. He came to the branch just after the shooting — apparently so that his absenteeism would not be noticed if any official turned up for inspection on Sunday.
Lepcha was about to escape when Subba accosted him and tried to block him with an axe. In the skirmish, Lepcha suffered a gash in his leg. He then called the police control room and blamed the murders on Subba.
The police took Subba into custody and Lepcha to hospital. By the time Lepcha was brought to the interrogation room from the hospital, his story had changed, police sources said.
“He had initially said Subba had shot him with a gun. Doctors, however, said his injury was from a sharp weapon,” an officer told The Telegraph.
Lepcha then broke down and told the police that Lance Naik Vishal Tiwari, one of his seniors on guard, had tried to sodomise him under the influence of alcohol. “We found three bottles of cheap liquor in the bank, ” the officer said.
Lepcha told the police the others on guard — Lance Naik Kumar Basnett and constables Laxman Subba, Karma Bhutia and Santabir Tamang — mocked him when he tried to resist Tiwari’s advances.
An enraged Lepcha shot Tiwari and, on being stopped by the others, opened fire on them, too, the police said. The first burst injured his colleagues but Lepcha reloaded his gun and fired again.
Instances of sodomy in the police as well as the armed forces are rarely discussed in public. Action has been taken but usually under the euphemism “ungentlemanly conduct” or, of late, “sexual malpractice”.
Uniformed forces the world over, especially those stationed in remote areas, have found it hard to battle the curse. But several of the reserve battalion members in Delhi had their families staying with them.