Shimla: Shocking revelations have come to light after the Central Bureau of Investigation on November 25 filed a chargesheet in the case pertaining to the custodial killing of Suraj Singh, a Nepalese laborer arrested for alleged gangrape and murder of Gudiya in Kotkhai on July 6.
The CBI today, on November 30, submitted its status report over the custodial killing to the Himachal Pradesh High Court. The CBI mentioned their accomplishment in concluding a successful probe and filing of challan against accused police officials in the CBI court. The agency said it is in possession of very solid evidences against the accused.
The next hearing in the case was scheduled for December 20.
If the CBI succeeds in proving every charge labeled against the accused in its chargsheet, then it would read like the following story:
A 16-years-old girl disappears on July 4, 2017, while returning back to home from the Government Senior Secodnary School Mahasu. The naked dead body of the girl is discovered on the morning of July 6.
The local police including the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Theog, Manoj Joshi arrive at the crime scene alongwith the Sub-divisional Magistrate . A FIR is filed under IPC Section 302, 376, and Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse Act (POCSO) against unknown culprits.
After the medical examination and an initial investigation, the police confirm the victim was gangraped and then choked to death. The report says she died of asphyxiation.
The incident sends waves of horror across Himachal as the peaceful Hill state is not acquainted with such inhumanity and barbarism.
Initially, the local police headed by then SP Shimla, D.W. Negi, investigate the case, and a team of the local forensic lab collects evidences from the spot where the dead body is dumped
Regular reports in various dailies and online news portals appear hitting an involvement of influential person. On July 10, the Director General of the Police, Somesh Goyal, forms a Special Investigating Team. With great expectations, the command of the SIT is given to then Inspector General of Police, Southern Range, Zahur H. Zaidi.
Meanwhile, on the evening of July 11,pictures of four youths appears on Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s official Facebook page with an update regarding the SIT probe. The update says the police nabbed these four suspects in the Gudiya case.
The pictures went viral on social media within seconds of posting. The update also confirmed interrogation from these suspects. However, the police do not confirm filing of any charges on the suspects.
The IT Cell of the Chief Minister deletes the photos within few minutes of posting. This suspicious move fuels the doubts of public about the possible conspiracy.
In its justification, the CMs IT Cell states that it was a technical glitch, which was not convincing at all
On the morning of July 13, the police arrests first accused in the case – Ashish Chauhan. By evening, five more accused are arrested. Surprisingly, none of these accused include any person who had appeared on the CM Facebook page on July 11. Five of the accused are laborers including two Nepalese
The youth is the odd one as he reportedly hails from a wealthy and influential family. The police do not provide any details about the role of this youth.
The police holds a press conference on the evening of July 13. The SIT and Director General of Police, Somesh Goyal, assure having in possession clinching forensic, technical, physical, and circumstantial evidences to prove the charges. They confirms confession by the arrested accused as well.
The SIT claims it solved the case within 55 hours of formation, and all culprits are behind bars. The police pats its own back claiming the case as a difficult one to solve.
However, on July 13, the entire story changes like it never existed.
The previous reports based on initial investigation disappear suddenly. Prior to July 13, the reports suggested Ashish Chauhan as the prime accused, and the SIT probe makes Rajinder alias Raju the prime accused.
The public and local media persons do not buy this theory of police. The local takes to the roads and demand a CBI probe. On July 14, a protest in Theog goes violent as enraged locals vandalize the police vehicles and reportedly rough up then SP DW Negi.
The locals demand a CBI probe.
At the same time, the police take to extreme physical torture to extract false confession from five innocent persons it arrested.
Amid public unrest and demand for the CBI probe, on the intervening night of July 18 and 19, the police hack one of the five accused, Suraj Singh, a Nepalese laborer, to death at the Police Station, Kotkhai, while inflicting extreme physical torture.
The local police again hatch a criminal conspiracy to save itself and file a fake FIR against the prime accused Rajinder alisas Raju for the killing of Suraj. In its statement, the police tell media that Suraj is killed by Raju following a scuffle. The autopsy report also follows the same theory.
(As per CBI chargesheet) The role of doctors who conducts the autopsy of Suraj also comes into question.
The locals and media do not buy this story of the local police either. As a result of it, violent protests erupt in Kotkhai on July 19. The mob vandalizes and almost sets the police station on fire. The government is forced to order an CBI inquiry on July 19.
On July 22, the CBI files two cases – relating to the gangrape and murder of the minor girl and custodial death of Suraj. The agency gets the Body of Suraj re-examined by a team of experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The findings of the CBI shock the State as the CBI on August 29 arrests eight police officials including Zaidi and Deputy Superintendent of Police, Manoj Joshi in relation to the custodial death.
The Sentry, Dinesh Kumar, who was on duty the night Suraj was killed becomes witness and leads to the arrest of the police officials.
On November 14, as another jolt to the State Police, the CBI arrests DW Negi for forging the FIR to save real culprits.
The CBI finds no evidences against the remaining five accused, who manage to procure a bail.
On November 25, the CBI files a chargesheet against the eight police officials in the special CBI court.
On November 28, two other members of the SIT, ASP Bhajan Dev Negi and DSP Rattan Singh Negi, become eyewitnesses against the arrested officials.
The CBI gives them a clean-chit.
So, if the chargesheet is to be believed, the SIT tried to shield the real culprits, who are still unknown. The police extracted false confession by torturing and threatening the arrested persons. The motivation behind this act is still unknown to even the CBI.
The CBI is convinced that it possesses sufficient evidences to prove all the charges labeled against these nine police officials. The telephonic communication between these officials is said to be one of the strongest evidences against them.
However, the CBI has not made any arrest for the rape and murder of Gudiya. The local police has done a professional job in messing up the forensic evidences. The CBI still continues to visit the Kotkhai region and collect more statements of locals and the classmates of the deceased victim.
As per the reports, the CBI has reportedly seized records of three banks.The agency is either hoping to get a lead from it or already has one.
At the same time, unofficial sources are speculating political influence. They argue that money is not sufficient to lure an IG rank police official to commit such a henious crime.
The family of the victim and the people of the state are still waiting to know what had happened to Guidya and who are the real culprits. Why the police was trying to extract false confession from five innocent persons?
PIL Filed in HP High Court Re-Ignites Quest for Recognizing Pahari (Himachali) as Hill State’s Official Language
Shimla- November 10, 2021, Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday passed an order concerning a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to recognize Pahari (Himachali) as an official language of the state. The petition also sought effective steps on the part of the government to preserve and promote the Pahari language in the State as its culture and language give it a distinct identity.
The Public Interest Litigation was filed by Arsh Dhanotia with a prayer that the state be directed to declare Pahari (Himachali) as one of the official languages in the State of Himachal Pradesh in any script and also promote further research towards a long-term formal Pahari (Himachali) nuclear language structure and nuclear Tankri script.
Bhawani Pratap Singh Kutlahria, the advocate for the petitioner, argued in the court that the State Government be directed to promote Pahari (Himachali) and other local languages as the medium of instruction in primary and middle-level schools as per the New Education Policy, 2020. On behalf of the petitioner, he also prayed the court to direct the state government to include Pahari (Himachali) language as a separate category for the 2021 Census and simultaneously undertake an awareness campaign to create awareness amongst the masses, especially the youth of the State who speak Pahari (Himachali), to get it marked as their mother tongue in the upcoming Census.
A bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Sabina while disposing off the PIL stated,
“The direction as has been prayed for, cannot be issued to the State Government until and unless it is established on record that the Pahari (Himachali) language has its own script and that a common Pahari dialect is spoken throughout the State of Himachal Pradesh. We, however, set the petitioner at liberty to approach the Department of Language Art & Culture to the Government of Himachal Pradesh with his demand for undertaking research to promote a common Pahari (Himachali) nuclear language structure and nuclear Tankri script. If the petitioner approaches the respondents-State through its Additional Chief Secretary (Language Art & Culture) to the Government of Himachal Pradesh) for the prayer made in the Civil Writ Public Interest Litigation, it would be for the said authority to consider the same in accordance with the law.”
Additionally, the petition had emphasised that Sanskrit, which is the second official language of the state, had only 936 speakers according to the 2011 census and Pahari (Himachali) dialect chain which is spoken by more than 40 lakh people was being neglected and has not been made an official language even after having so many speakers.
The petition also highlighted works of Former Chief Minister Late YS Parmar and Former Education Minister Late Narain Chand Parashar towards the promotion of the Pahari (Himachali) language.
What’s Pahari (Himachali) Language, How Many Districts It Covers
It is to be noted that according to the petitioner, Pahari (Himachali) is a combined term used for the Western Pahari dialect chain spoken in Himachal Pradesh and majorly includes Kangri, Mandeali, Chambeali, Kulvi, Mahasu Pahari and Sirmauri. According to him ever since the creation of Himachal Pradesh, there has been a demand for recognition of Pahari (Himachali) under the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and it is also officially listed with 37 more languages as a language which is in significant demand to be included in the scheduled languages category.
In his plea, he also stated that the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha in 1970 and 2010 have also passed resolutions concerning the promotion and development of Pahari (Himachali).
Himachal’s Snow Covered Area Has Decreased, Poses Big Threat to State Economy’s Lifelines: Report
Shimla-The area under snow cover in Himachal Pradesh has declined by 18.5% according to a recent report published by State Centre on Climate Change (SCCC) and Space Application Center (ISRO) Ahmedabad. The report revealed this decreasing trend for the five major river basins in the State.
As the report points out, the high altitude regions of Himachal Pradesh receive precipitation mainly in the form of snow during the winter season. One-third of the geographical area of the state is covered by a thick blanket of snow during the winter season. Rivers like Chenab, Beas, Parvati, Baspa, Spiti, Ravi, Sutlej and its tributaries flowing through Himachal are dependent on snowfall in winter. These rivers mainly feed into the Indus water system and a decline at this rate rings a death knell for water and also food security for millions of people from Himachal to Kashmir, the plains of Punjab, the food bowl of the country.
Using images and data received from satellites, the report states, that the winter precipitation was mapped in all the basins from October 2020 to May 2021 (a period of two years). The findings indicate that there has been an average decrease of 8.92 percent in Chenab basin, 18.54 percent in Beas basin, 23.16 percent in Ravi basin, 23.49 percent in Sutlej basin compared to last year. The ice covered area of Chenab basin was 7154.11 sq km in 2019-20, which has come down to 6515.91 sq km in 2020-21. Similarly, Beas basin was reduced from 2457.68 to 2002.03 square kilometer, Ravi basin from 2108.13 square kilometer to 1619.82 square kilometer and Sutlej from 11823.1 square kilometer to 9045 square kilometers. Overall, the snow covered area was reduced from 23542 square kilometer to 19183 square kilometer in the entire Himachal.
Sutlej Basin covers 45 per cent of the total geographical area of Himachal and it is the longest river of the state. It flows for around 320 kms here, passing through Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Solan and Bilaspur districts, along its course. The above study shows that the maximum reduction in snow cover has occurred in the Sutlej basin. An area of 4359 square kilometers under snow cover has decreased for the whole state, of which more than half of the Sutlej Basin.
Just two years ago another study had indicated that more than half of glaciers in Sutlej Basin are set to vanish by 2050. Yet another study also showed that the Sutlej basin has the highest 562 number of glacial lakes. These lakes stand the risk of sudden outbursts, which then causes flash floods downstream as the valley has already experienced. So, while the crisis that is unfolding, be it deglaciation, lake formation or reduction in area under snow cover, it seems that the Sutlej river basin is more vulnerable to these changes.
Prakash Bhandari, an environmental researcher and activist and member of Himdhara Collective expressing his concern states that the situation in the Sutlej river basin is certainly indicative of a serious climate emergency and it is critical to look into the drivers of this both local and global.
“The Sutlej basin catchment is the largest and so the changes visible here are more significant. Many factors have worked together to create this crisis which should be studied closely. There is no doubt that global warming is contributing to these changes. But the local conditions also play a role in reducing or increasing its impact”, he says.
The upper reaches of the Sutlej Valley, especially areas like Kinnaur are geologically fragile, with sharp gradients and loose soil strata. Vegetation is in a very small area so the proneness to erosion. We have seen the catastrophic impacts of flashfloods and landslides over the last decade and a half, where crores worth of property has been damaged. This year saw a spate of landslides where lives were lost. “In such a sensitive and also strategically important area, changes in the landscape will have far reaching and irreversible impacts. More construction activities will lead to more deforestation, more erosion”.
Construction of dams has been rampant in the Sutlej valley, a phenomena that started post independence and continues today. If all of the planned dams are built the Sutlej will be cho-a-cloc with more then 150, large and small projects. At the bottom of the valley in Bilaspur is the Bhakra Dam, built almost 6 decades ago, which has a size of 168 sq km and a storage capacity of 9.340 cubic km. Is. This is followed by the Kol Dam which extends for 42 km up to Sunni, which has a total storage capacity of 90 million cubic metres. Nathpa Jhakri Project which is 27.394 kms. is long. When a dam is built, a huge amount of water is stored. The debris of many villages, trees etc. also gets absorbed inside the dam. When water is stagnant, it receives heat from the Sun to form mist in the surrounding area by evaporation and simultaneously generates methane gas. The experience of the lake formed by the Kol dam at Tattapani in Mandi district shows that the area is experiencing heavy haze which was not there earlier.
“In the 30s and 40s, Shikari Devi and Kamrunag used to have snow on the peaks for about 6 months, which now could barely stop for only 2 months. The air route distance of Shikari Devi and Kamrunag is only 26 to 30 kms from Tattapani lake. At the same time, their distance is not much from the cement factories of Darlaghat, Sundernagar”, the elders in the area say. “Today, fog is prevalent and this has also made the area warmer”.
Due to the warming of the weather due to the clouds formed from the mist, the snow has started melting quickly. Apart from this the local crop patterns are affected. Post the 1990s, the Sutlej became a site for run of the river hydroelectric projects using extensive underground tunneling. This involves massive use of explosives for blasting through the mountains. Of the 23,000 MW worth of projects to be constructed in Himachal more than 10,000, a third are from this valley alone. Kinnaur continues to be a hydel powerhouse with 10 run of the river projects in progress and 30 more to be set up including two mega projects of 1500 MW and 1000 MW each. This paints a scary picture.
Interactive Sutlej River-Basin Map indicate Hydropower Station location
It is not just the hydro-electric dams but unplanned tourism and other development activities like mining, cement plants, road expansion and mindless construction across the high Himalayan regions have also add to the shift in local weather patterns, land use changes and thus the ecological crisis. But the reason why we should put the limelight on hydropower is that this is being pushed as “Green Energy”, in the name of climate change mitigation. As opposed to other forms of generating power, hydropower projects are said to cause lesser carbon emissions, which is why there has been a global push to shift to renewable resources. But the climate emergency in the Himalayas has put a question mark on ‘water’ as a renewable resource.
The question then arises that with all this data indicating a steady decline in river discharge and snow cover have our planners and policy makers not considered what will happen to these projects? Will they be able to generate the power they propose to? The people of Himalaya have to wake up to this wastage of public resources. Scarce funds should be diverted to better planning for securing local livelihoods by protecting the forest ecosystems and water sources for the future.
Feature Images: unsplash/@raimondklavins
Himachal: Warnings of Delta Plus Virulence Fall on Deaf Ears, No Restriction on Visitors from Affected States
Shimla-Yesterday, the Centre government directed the state governments to take immediate measure in wake of the spread of more infectious Delta Plus variant. As the Delta Plus variant is posing a threat of the third wave, the states were told to take steps like preventing crowds, increase testing, more focus on surveillance, contact tracing and put boosting vaccine coverage on a priority basis. Following it, Himachal Pradesh Government might have announced an alert over Delta plus variant, but there wasn’t any follow up on instructions passed by scientists and health experts to take strict restrictive measures ahead of the impending third wave.
To make it worse, high rank officials and political leaders were seen flouting Covid-19 SOPs on several occasion, which sent wrong messages to the masses. The pictures and videos showing flouting of Covid appropriate behavior by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and Directorial General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, alongwith other staff for Anupam Kher is the most recent to mention. A group photograph and video of the same were widely circulated on social media and invited huge criticism from the people.
So far, the state has not reported any case of the Delta Plus variant. But the neighboring states – Punjab, Haryana, and Jammu & Kashmir – reported their first cases yesterday. This puts the boarding areas, like in Una district, at a higher risk. Chief Secretary to HP Government, Anil Khachi, yesterday said samples have been sent for genome sequencing.
Despite repeated warnings of Delta plus variant (B.1.617.2.1.), Himachal Pradesh has thrown its borders open to all and lifted all restrictions for inter-state travel in just one go. From June 23 onwards, the state government removed the condition for registering on the e-pass portal for visitors intending to enter the state. In the Cabinet meeting held on June 22, 201, the government first decided that e-pass restrictions would be removed from July 1, but later it changed the decision and instead implemented it immediately.
This haphazard decision is said to have come under huge pressure from the hospitality industry – the worst-hit sector, leading to financial crisis and mass unemployment among its stakeholders. Related associations had been approaching Chief Minister Jairam Thakur with their pleas to provide relief, but mostly faced disappointment. The stakeholders say the state government didn’t provide any significant relief, which is making the survival of the industry difficult.
Also, stakeholder of the industry, especially hoteliers, had been demanding the removal of restrictions and conditions on the entry of tourists to Himachal so that they could fetch the remaining peak tourist season.
With its inability to offer relief, the HP Government took the chance to waive off restrictions in a haste.
At the same time, the state government has decided to conduct offline examinations for the undergraduate classes starting from July. A section of the students had been condemning the HP government for scheduling exams without vaccinating students. Some student bodies had been asking the government as to why online classes were possible but not online exams.
The state government also waived off restrictions on timings for the opening of markets/shops.
As scientists and health experts warn of the virulence of the new variant and with neighboring states already on alert after reporting cases of the new variant, the HP government hasn’t even mentioned any intention to at least put a check on the visitor from the states where cases of Delta Plus are being reported. Carrying an RT-PCR negative report for visitors from such states/cities would have been a wiser step.
Officially, the state is on alert, but no measures have been announced to check the entry and spread of the variant into the state. The state government does speak of preparing for the anticipated third wave, but there is hardly any long-term preventive strategy. The Covid appropriate behavior is hard to adopt when markets and tourist places are crowded with visitors.
Why Delta Plus is a Big Concern
The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled the Delta variant as ‘Variant of Concern’.
The Centre and scientific/medical institutes in India also agree with that Delta Plus as a variant of concern and could be the cause of impending third wave. Last Tuesday, based on the findings of INSACOG, the Union Health Ministry had alerted and advised Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh regarding the Delta Plus variant of COVID19.
INSACOG had warned that the Delta Plus variant has increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells, potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.
“Delta variant is more resistant to medication, treatment and vaccination. Therefore, people who have been vaccinated can still be affected by this variant and can go on to get a clinical illness, Archana Dhawan Bajaj, director, Nurture IVF, told a national English Daily.
“Neutralising antibodies against this variant post-vaccination seem to be nearly five times lower in people who have already been vaccinated than the other variants,” she said.
Further, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, ex-Head Scientist of Epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR, has also expressed concern over the reports that Delta Plus has reported pathophysiologic change and affecting different organs. Dr Raman says that it could transfer from cell to cell and would more likely produce neurological symptoms as a common manifestation.
So far India has reported 51 cases of the Delta Plus variant.
Delta Plus variant is a variant of Delta with an additional mutation -B.1.617.2.1.