Budaun (UP), January 8
The priest, who is the main accused in the alleged gangrape of an anganwadi worker in this Uttar Pradesh district, was quizzed throughout Friday night after his arrest in a late-night crackdown that ended his five-day run.
The “mahant”, Satya Narayan, was hiding in a forest area near the house of one of his followers in a village under the Ughaiti police station, from where he was picked up, the police said.
The priest, who is in his 50s, was immediately arrested and interrogated by a police team.
Four teams were formed to nab the accused, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sankalp Sharma said.
He will be taken for a medical examination and produced before a local court for seeking remand, the police said.
The 50-year-old woman, who had gone to a temple, was found dead under mysterious circumstances on Sunday. Her family members accused the temple priest and his accomplices of raping and killing her.
A case was registered against the accused and two of them were arrested on Tuesday night, while the priest was absconding for almost five days before he was held.
The incident triggered an opposition outcry and a comparison with Delhi’s 2012 Nirbhaya case after the post-mortem report confirmed rape, a broken rib cage, a fractured leg and injuries in the private parts of the victim.
The incident took place on Sunday and the matter came to light that night itself when the priest and his accomplices took the body of the victim to her house, saying it was found in a dry well on the temple premises.
The FIR was registered on Tuesday after an autopsy confirmed rape and the two accomplices of the priest were nabbed.
The station house officer (SHO) of the Ughaiti police station has been suspended for a “delay in informing higher authorities, laxity in taking action, dereliction of duty and failure in taking speedy action”.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered “strongest possible action” in the case even as opposition parties have launched an attack on his government, terming the incident “horrific” and “shameful”, with the Congress comparing it to the Nirbhaya case.
Following the incident, Bareilly ADG Avinash Chandra had visited the crime spot and announced a reward of Rs 50,000 on the arrest of the priest.
“Based on complaints from the family members and the post-mortem report, a case has been registered under sections 376D (gang-rape) and 302 (punishment for murder) of the IPC,” he had said.
The ADG had said a second opinion on the post-mortem report was being sought from medical experts and only after that, any conclusion could be drawn.
Budaun Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Yashpal Singh said the woman died of trauma and excessive bleeding.
Endorsing the CMO’s opinion, District Magistrate Kumar Prashant said, “Whatever help can be given from the department will be given. She was an anganwadi sahayika (helper). We are also paying attention to the security of the family.” The victim’s son said his mother had gone to offer prayers at the temple on Sunday but did not return home within the expected time.
It was only around 11 pm that the priest and his two aides came to their house and handed over her body, he added.
Before the family members could ask how she died, the accused left the house saying she had fallen into a dry well and her body was pulled out subsequently.
The victim’s son said the police were informed of the incident on Monday.
Amid the opposition uproar, the Chief Minister’s Officer said in a tweet: “The UP CM @myogiadityanath has taken cognisance of the Badaun incident and instructed to take strongest legal action against the accused.” The chief minister has also instructed the ADG, Bareilly zone to submit a detailed report on the incident and directed the Special Task Force (STF) to assist in the probe, it said.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is also in charge of the party’s affairs in Uttar Pradesh, hit out at the Adityanath government, alleging that there is something wrong in its intention on the issue of women’s security.
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati too have condemned the incident.
The Budaun incident comes months after a Dalit woman from Hathras was allegedly raped by four men on September 14 last year. She died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken note of the Budaun incident and sent a team of its members for a probe.
NCW member Chandramukhi Devi, who met the victim’s family members on Thursday, said the incident could have been avoided had the woman not stepped out in evening.
She, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the police action in the case. “I tell women again and again that they should never go out at odd hours under anyone’s influence.
“I think had she not gone out in the evening or if she was accompanied by any child of the family, perhaps this incident could have been avoided. But this was pre-planned as she was called through a phone call. She went (out) and then returned in such a state,” she told reporters at the victim’s village. PTI