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Why was Ram Singh killed in Tihar jail?

March 12, 2013

The chief accused in the Delhi gang rape “found dead” in his cell? Killed with his own shirt? Hanging from a grill, with his three cell mates sound asleep all the while? The moment I heard the news  on Monday, every conspiracy theory-oriented cell in my body did a quick cartwheel. Promptly I sent out a mail to the sisterhood on the Feminists India e-list:

I’m wondering whether there is something more than police negligence involved here. I have always felt that the role of the police on that night was more than simply their usual laparwahi – that bus may have been used often in the past for such activities, remember they didn’t follow up the complaint of the man who had been earlier that night robbed by the same guys? And how they located the bus from their hafta diaries? I’m wondering – and going to sound paranoid and like a loony conspiracy theorist – whether the key accused in court would have revealed more about police complicity in rapes and other activities on buses like Yadav’s than we imagine. Prisoners in jail often carry out attacks on other prisoners on the orders of the police themselves.

Yes, Indian prisons are violent and brutal, and the police callous and vicious. Yes, there should be an enquiry to assign responsibility. But I’m pretty certain I know who killed Ram Singh – some other prisoners. And I think that they did it on orders from the police.

So what could Ram Singh have revealed if he had his day in court? What could he have said to deflect attention away from his own crime?

Let’s go back to that night.  Earlier that night, a man had stopped two policemen on a bike and told them that a white bus had picked him up near Sabji Mandi at about 8.30 pm, and that the men in it had beaten him up, robbed him,  dropped him near the IIT flyover and sped away. The cops on the bike told him that the area came under the jurisdiction of Vasant Vihar police station, and that he should register a complaint there. In effect, they did nothing, not even to help the man, with no money and no mobile, to get back home. Familiar callousness. Not much of a story here, apart from “had they acted in time…”

But let’s move on. After the rape was reported and a huge outcry ensued, how was the bus tracked down? First we heard that some very slick detective work was carried out – based on information from the friend of the woman that the bus had Yadav written on the side, Delhi Police Commissioner said:

We contacted bus body builders and transporters of Delhi and NCR and asked about a Yadav transporter. We took a list of 370 such buses which run on chartered routes from the transport department. We zeroed in one Yadav transporter…

…and the rest is history.

Barely had we recovered from the dizzy sensation of living in a crime novel set in some civilized place where police actually conduct enquiries rather than base their cases entirely on “confessions”, than we learnt that the reality was rather more murky, as it tends to be With Delhi Police, Always.

Apparently,

A traffic policeman had reportedly recorded the registration number of the bus in a ‘hafta’ diary – a record of illegally-plying buses for which bribes have been paid for exemption of prosecution. That immunity from police, however, is seen as the sole reason the gangrape was not detected as no cop intercepted it while it circled the area slowly.

The cop identified the bus when the police relayed the description provided by the victims. It finally led the police to zero in on two transporters with Yadav as their surnames.

It was after this that the list of 370 chartered buses was procured, and Dinesh Yadav identified.

Every single cop in Delhi knows and is in on the game. The cops on the bike knew that “white” buses are immune as long as they pay their weekly bribe. Traffic Police know, Delhi Police know. They all know that these buses don’t simply ply on unauthorized routes – they know that crimes are carried out on them, they know very well why the same bus might slowly drive by, again and again, circling, circling. They know what could be going on inside.

Chances are, this was not the first rape carried out in this way, on that bus, by those men. Chances are this was not the first such “protected” bus on which such crimes have been carried out. Chances are the police were not just turning a blind eye in return for bribes. Chances are that policemen participate in what goes on under the protection of the hafta racket. If not this time, another time. On other occasions.

If you’re a working class person, if you live on the streets, you experience the brutal fact that the police are simply another crime mafia.

But people like us are still thinking – suicide, brutal fellow prisoners, police negligence; at best, ubiquitous bribery. All of which can be competently dealt with – some scapegoats, some cosmetic changes.

What if there’s a more chilling truth yet to be revealed, about the intimate weaving together of prisons, crime and the police ?

No way Ram Singh could have been allowed to stand up in that court room.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. Pritam Singh permalink
    March 12, 2013 11:19 PM

    sounds very plausible :’more chilling truth yet to be revealed’. A rule of the thumb is not to believe the media handouts delivered by the police whether about prison deaths, deaths in police custody, escape of undertrial prisoners from police vehicles while being taken to court, encounters etc etc…

  2. March 12, 2013 11:42 PM

    While I agree that Ram Singh’s death shouldn’t be so easily classified as a suicide (pending full-er investigation), I don’t think we should succumb to half-baked conspiracy theorizing.

    Even if the “Police” (assuming all of them act in complete tandem for one another and are extremely efficient in covering up for each other) wanted to silence Ram Singh about certain facts, those facts are already in the public domain (the hafta diary, the prior robbery), will be testified to by other accused (other incidents that took place that night) or will have to be brought up by the prosecution itself (Ram Singh’s past use of the bus for illegal activities).

    In creating conspiracy theories by stringing together loose facts with the glue of assumption, we are in fact succumbing to the same flaws that plague police investigation in the country. We are looking for a convenient story with neat ends tied up instead of the truth which is, more often than not, complex and confusing.

    Let us therefore try to stick to the facts. We know Ram Singh was on suicide watch. We know there were three other people in the same cell. We know he was found hung. We do not have the statements of his cell mates. We do not have the autopsy report. We do not have evidence of an obvious struggle, yet. Let us allow an investigation to come through and not prejudice ourselves and the course of justice with preconceived notions and conspiracy theories.

    • Sunalini Kumar permalink*
      March 13, 2013 2:44 PM

      How about full-baked, delicious, fresh-from-the-oven conspiracy theories? Personally, I find them very invigorating to think with.

  3. Melanie permalink
    March 13, 2013 12:36 AM

    Completely believe the conclusions that Nivedita has logically arrived at. It seems to make sense as to why Ram Singh could not have been allowed to appear in court. Obviously, the post mortem report about his death is a doctored one! But what of the other three accused? They are also liable to spill the beans. Who ensures their protection? It certainly can’t be left to the police!

  4. March 13, 2013 1:51 AM

    Oh ! This nightmarish speculation if is true …? I feel it quite convincing …

  5. surabhi permalink
    March 13, 2013 5:52 AM

    This doesnt sound like a conspiracy theory at all. In fact reads almost like a piece of evidence produced with collation of facts. But then, we will never know, or allowed to. And even if we do know, whats going to come out of it? After all we live in a country where we forgive a CM implicit in raping women and setting them on fire because we accept it as collateral damage for ushering in ‘development’.

  6. Nisha george permalink
    March 13, 2013 5:56 AM

    Totally and horribly plausible.

  7. March 13, 2013 9:13 AM

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking too. And no doubt many others. Thank you for articulating it. Regardless of whether Ram Singh committed suicide or was killed, the trial needs to bring out the truth of the police-bus-criminal nexus.

  8. george jose permalink
    March 13, 2013 10:14 AM

    All your suspicions may be cent percent true. But one will never, ever prove that in a court of law. Every one involved, the victims, the accused, the prosecution, the lawyers and the judges know the truth, but there will not be evidence to prove the same. Now you understand the reason for the confidence of people who say “let law take its own course”.

  9. KS Subramanian permalink
    March 13, 2013 10:49 AM

    Ram Singh was perhaps the key witness and the leader of the rapists who had links with the police; he had to be eliminated and was eliminated. This cannot be ruled out and I suspected it but not articulate enough to put it in writing! After all, suicides can be instigated too, right? One has heard about the criminality in the Tihar Jail.
    Incidentally,it seems that Afzal Guru, a surrendered militant subjected to regular harassment by the Special Operations Group of the police on the border, was asked under duress by the officer in charge to find a taxi for the team which went to Delhi and attacked Parliament on that fateful day. Afzal himself was reportedly innocent of their motive. No Commission of Inquiry was set up on this major case. Why?
    Nivedita has done a brilliant job. Congrats!

    • Nirmalangshu permalink
      March 13, 2013 8:08 PM

      KS, where did you find the information “was asked under duress by the officer in charge to find a taxi for the team which went to Delhi and attacked Parliament on that fateful day”?

      • KS Subramanian permalink
        March 14, 2013 9:19 AM

        Thanks, Nirmalngshu,
        My information stemmed from informed persons in the police.
        KS

  10. Rishi permalink
    March 13, 2013 11:21 AM

    Definitely seems plausible Nivedita. Just not a conspiracy theory, I think it is a logical conclusion. But the truth will not be out in open for common man to know. One can only speculate !

  11. March 13, 2013 2:28 PM

    No one is going to buy the suicide theory. He was murdered no doubt and the motive seems to be suspicious. He was the prime accused and is not no more….we can understand why he was killed.

  12. March 13, 2013 2:55 PM

    Quite possible. In any case the other facts are true: hafta diary, policemen being completely complicit on the deals, underbelly of police acting as a criminal mafia,compete apathy & breakdown of law & order, police not registering complaint of the cellphone robbery. If they allowed such rapes to have happened earlier too is v plausible.

  13. March 13, 2013 4:47 PM

    the point is what do we do to ensure a fair probe done in this?

  14. Jonathan Singh permalink
    March 13, 2013 5:22 PM

    We all know what has happened to Ram Singh, the police know, people know and the best part is the courts know. An enquiry is set up and at the most a case will be registered against the police…so what. This is will be another “cool” case. It is just matter of routine for the police to go to the court and answer vaguely. There were many “Ram Singhs” eliminated in the past and many more will go in the future and no one can do anything about it. The system and the law is with them. In the course of time they have learnt to manipulate the system and the law. Our court judgments and a mockery of the laws. SO what can we do…just wait for another Ram Singh to go…then write comments like this. thanks Nivedita Menon for speaking out…GBU!

  15. Jyoti Kathju permalink
    March 13, 2013 5:26 PM

    we are a country of certificates…..we do not accept the school leaving certificate of the chief of the army staff……we accept the school certificate of a juvenile delinquent…….remember he did not leave school ? he dropped out !! and how do we know that he is a juvenile ??well the records of the school say so ! the least said about the system the better !

  16. Aniruddha Basu permalink
    March 14, 2013 1:04 AM

    You forget that there are 5 others as well. The police surely cant kill all of them! Yes Delhi Police is corrupt callous and even criminal, but this is taking conspiracy theorising to extremes with little evidence to back up claims (much like the Delhi Police itself)!

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      March 14, 2013 7:48 AM

      The other accused don’t need to be killed. They have got the message.

      Meanwhile a journalist from a leading national daily is circulating as conclusive proof against my speculations here, the denial issued by the Delhi Police in response to the hafta story in The Pioneer which I mention in my post. This journalist treats an official denial as proof! This is the state of our media. I have earlier written about “news stories” entirely based on police briefings:

      Playing Cops and Reporters

      Ab aap police station se samachar suniye.

      Interestingly the police denial in The Pioneer says: “It is highly regrettable that despite briefing by the CP/Delhi on 18.12.2012 regarding solving of the case…”

      We briefed you, and still you went ahead and did your own investigations around the story anyway?? Our briefing should have been your story!

      The Pioneer apologized, and it’s unlikely that the reporter in question will ever show such initiative again.

      • Rukmini permalink
        March 18, 2013 1:46 PM

        I am the journalist who tweeted about the Pioneer story. I did not cite it as conclusive proof of anything. My point was that If you are largely basing your theory on a un-sourced Pioneer story that was denied and apologised for, you need to at least mention that. Scepticism of the police can co-exist with basic journalism, but of course my point gets dismissed as “this is the state of our media”. Lesson learnt, Kafila.

    • Carol Andrade permalink
      March 15, 2013 6:25 PM

      Aaaah, but the man who died was the REGULAR driver of the bus, remember? He was probably the only one in a position to make accusations or claims against the Delhi police.

  17. March 14, 2013 2:18 AM

    Completely plausible and is probably what happened. However, like many other commentators here I don’t believe the true story will ever come out.

  18. Ishita permalink
    March 14, 2013 11:18 AM

    We all know nothing will come out of the investigation. When people like Pandher of ‘ Natharri’ case walk free …. we know this country is doomed as far as justice is concerned . Even though the reportage may not be true to the hilt but Media still remains as our best bet. What are the choices that we have ?

  19. March 14, 2013 12:27 PM

    Truth seems to have been lost somewhere in the society…
    Media is not reliable anymore and we really dont know what the governing bodies are doing. They make up stories because thats a safe escape route…
    Justice : Can we ever expect in this country?

  20. gayatriraghunandan permalink
    March 14, 2013 2:09 PM

    My undeniable love for conspiracy theories has importuned my mind to come up with this one:

    A few days ago, the CJI went on record to say that the incident on December 16 was not ‘unique’, but one among many. Ergo, the accused may not have been hanged, despite the death of the victim in this case. This would have infuriated a large proportion of the Indian population that wanted the rapist to face capital punishment. Not hanging him would have elicited further protests and invariably, decreased legitimacy of the government. So, what is the safest way out of this impasse? You kill the party involved and make it look like a guilt trip. The naive ones will choose to believe that the accused was overcome with guilt, fear of punishment and was perturbed by the relationship he shared with his cellmates. Therefore, he chose to topple his bucket. Wow, justice has been served. The monster got what he deserved.

    The following are the assumed conditions for this theory to have some possible basis:

    1. The Judiciary, as mentioned in the constitution ,is independent of the Executive and is competent in itself, in practice.
    2. All Indians believe that capital punishment should be the ‘desert’ served to the offenders for committing this heinous crime.
    3. All Indians are naive.
    4. Nobody will choose to question the blatant breach of security in a supposedly ‘high-security’ jail, that allowed a man, who was under a suicide-watch, to kill himself.
    5. A remorseless sociopath magically morphs into an apologetic man, quivering with fear of punishment and riddled with guilt and shame. Oh, and he is unable to bear the persecution he faces at the hands of his cellmates.
    6. All Indians are naive.

    How about that?

  21. xyz.. permalink
    March 15, 2013 4:16 PM

    One true story.. recently on the day just before band (i guess) all the auto walas from the Nizamudden station was not allowed to stand there.. that is a law and truley implemented.. but the catch is one autwala was fighting with police that I give you 200 Rs to stand here daily.. it is not fair to remove me… and police wala said go here from today we can not do any thing.. there will be an inspection.. clear story of police helping in crime..
    .

  22. Carol Andrade permalink
    March 15, 2013 6:23 PM

    Not far-fetched at all. I live in Mumbai, supposed to be miles ahead of other cities when it comes to safety, and it was – for many years. But even at its safest, I learned to recognise the truth. That Bombay (then) was much safer for people like me, with a voice. For the poor, the man on the street with no influence, it could be enough that a policemen wakes up one morning and decides he does not like your face – and makes you pay for it. In many cases, policemen ARE the criminals. Thank the SYSTEM of patronage, hafta, bribery, corruption.

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