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Tears scarce for Gaya's daughter

Police lathicharge protesters in Gaya after the girl's murder. Picture by Suman

Gaya: The parents of the eight-year-old girl, whose abduction and murder sparked violent protests in Gaya on February 7, have given up hope.

"Nobody is going to bring my daughter back," said the girl's father, a low-level civic body employee. "I do not expect justice. Nobody stands for the poor. Except for a few of my colleagues and a few local people, nobody stood for us. Had the victim been from some clout-yielding family, the entire system would have been with her."

The child was abducted on February 6 evening and the next morning her body was found behind the boundary wall of the district magistrate's residence.

The Magadh University vice-chancellor, the jail superintendent and senior judicial officers have their official residences in the locality falling under the Rampur police station area of the town. The Gaya Circuit House, too, is located less than 500m from where the child's body was found.

"The girl has turned out to be the daughter of a lesser God," said local social activist S.B. Bhaskar. "The nationalist brigade too has taken a chalta hai (it happens) attitude towards it."

The main accused Chhotu Ravani, Bhaskar pointed out, belongs to a caste that has for long been calling the shots in most of the elections in the area since 1972. Ravani's caste men have won eight of the 11 Assembly elections held in the town since 1972. In 2015, both the winner and the runner-up were from Chhotu's caste, said Bhaskar.

Asked if he had met the victim's family, Gaya MP Hari Manjhi said he had been busy with his daughter's wedding preparations and promised to meet the family.

Gaya town MLA and agriculture minister Prem Kumar also has not met the victim's family. BJP spokesperson Jugesh Kumar said the minister had been busy but will meet the family whenever he gets an opportunity.

When a schoolboy, Aditya Sachdeva, was murdered by Rocky Yadav, son of a lawmaker, in a road rage incident, chief minister Nitish Kumar, then leader of Opposition Sushil Kumar Modi, Union minister Giriraj Singh and former Union aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain had met the schoolboy's parents. Nitish had also sent a senior IPS officer to ascertain whether the parents wanted a CBI inquiry.

No one in a position of authority has shed a tear or extended basic condolences to the family of the Gaya girl - except MP Pappu Yadav, and social activist Medha Patkar. Patkar has also written to Nitish over the case.

"Civil society and the political class, as well as the media, particularly the electronic media, should be ashamed," said Sunil, a resident of Rampur locality of the town. "Tears, real as well as crocodile, are reserved only for the privileged ones. After Aditya's murder, nearly half-a-dozen vans of almost all major TV channels descended on the small township and remained there for several days. But for some clippings in local channels, the Gaya girl was ignored as if she didn't exist."

Though the post-mortem report has not been officially released nearly two weeks after the murder - another pointer to the priority the case has received - many here fear the child was raped and murdered. The Rampur police station case, besides Section 302 (murder), also includes Section 376 (rape) of the IPC.

Soon after the incident, zonal inspector-general of police N.H. Khan had directed the Gaya police to submit the charge sheet within a week. That deadline ended on February 15. Earlier, Magadh Division Commissioner Jitendra Srivatav had said that the case would be put on speedy trial. Asked about the progress of the investigation, Gaya senior superintendent of police Garima Malik said that she was waiting for the report from the Forensic Science lab in Patna. "A charge sheet will be filed once the lab report is available. May be within two weeks," she said.

"The shocking indifference towards the victim reminds me of a quote from former MP Rajesh Kumar," said Gaya-based political analyst Ali Hussain. "In the 1991 parliamentary election, a Delhi journalist asked Rajesh about the sympathy vote for her rival Nagia Devi, who contested the seat earlier held by her slain husband Ishwar Chaudhary. Rajesh had reportedly told the journalist: Sympathy is the privilege of the privileged. The underdogs die a dog's death and nobody is bothered."

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