November 23, 2017
After police had locked him up on charges of murdering a Class 2 student of Ryan International School in Gurugram, bus conductor Ashok Kumar never thought he would walk free.
Now out on bail, Ashok narrated how the police brutalised him to make him confess to a murder he claimed he had nothing to do with.
The 42-year-old, who hailed from Ghamroj village in Sohna area of south Gurugram, was jailed on 8 September, the very day seven-year-old Pradyuman Thakur was found murdered in the school toilet. At first, the police claimed the conductor wanted to sodomise the boy but had to kill him as the child raised an alarm. However, the police’s account of events was met with suspicion.
As media questioned the police’s theory, the accused was produced before them for a confession. Alighting from the police vehicle, Ashok walked with a distinct limp. The police explained it by saying he had suffered from paralysis since an early age.
Ashok told the media he was masturbating inside the toilet and Pradyuman happened to see him as the door was not locked. He said he grabbed the child and gagged him as he was about to raise an alarm. He said he panicked so he took out the knife that was in his pocket and killed the boy.
The hesitation in his tone and tenor, his body language, the blank look on his face and nervous countenance indicated something wasn’t right. His hands and face looked swollen, to which the police said, “Laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahi maante.” (Hardened people don’t spill the beans easily.)
A day after the boy’s murder, the media again requested to question the accused. At the instruction of the officiating commissioner DCP Simardeep Singh, the Station House Officer of Sohna police station allowed the press to speak with Ashok. The five-minute interview went like this:
Why did you kill the boy?
Buddhi kharaab ho gaya tha. Hosh nahi raha. (I was out of my mind. I had lost my senses.)
Why did you kill him?
He had seen me masturbating inside the toilet.
Have you sodomised other children before this?
No. This was the first time.
Are you guilty?
Two days after this, a criminal lawyer from Haryana’s Rohtak, 26-year-old Mohit Verma, took up the case. He met the accused in Bhondsi jail on 14 September and heard from him, how the police had tortured him to get a confession. Meanwhile, Ashok’s family was also denying the Haryana Police’s claim that his limp was because of paralysis. Ashok’s wife claimed that he had no medical history, arguing that how could he have previously worked as a driver, if he had paralysis.
Amid speculations about foul play on the police’s part, the investigation of the murder was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). A month after the murder, CBI arrested a class 11 student of the victim’s school, revealing that the teenager had murdered Pradyuman to delay the exams.
Following this, Ashok was finally granted bail due to the lack of incriminating evidence against him. Speaking with Firstpost, he shared the ordeal he suffered behind bars.
What happened on the day the class 2 student was murdered?
I went to the toilet after all the children got off the bus. After I came out and went to the water cooler, I heard some commotion. I rushed towards the toilet and saw a child lying in a pool of blood. The gardener, Harpal, said, “He should be taken to the hospital, take him in madam’s car.” I thought this is my moral obligation and lifted the child.
What happened after the teachers left for the hospital?
Before leaving, madam asked me to wash my clothes, lest the blood stains scare off the children. I cleaned my shirt, had water and was wondering who might have done such a thing to a child. I went and joined the other drivers and conductors.
When did the police call you?
I was still at the school when the police came. They started questioning everybody. When they learnt that I was the one who first lifted the child and that my shirt had blood stains, they asked me to accompany them for questioning.
First they took me to Bhondsi police station. I don’t know where they took me from there. At first they asked me what had happened. After I told them everything, they said I had killed the child and started thrashing me. I pleaded with them and told them that I too am a father of two little children. I asked them what motive could I possibly have to kill a child. After this, they beat me up even more and said they have evidence against me.
There were four officers and all of them were roughing me up. When I still didn’t toe their line, they threatened me. Unhone kaha ki agar tu nahi maanega toh tere pariwar aur bachchon ke saath achha nahi hoga. (They said if you don’t budge, it won’t bode well for your family and children.)
So when did you confess to the crime?
I was not able to withstand it anymore. I was in extreme pain. Unhone mere dono paaon ko cheer diya. Danda maar rahe thhe, main chilla raha tha, par woh maarte ja rahe thhe. Main thak gaya. (They ripped open both my feet and hit me with canes. I was screaming but they continued beating me up. Finally I couldn’t take it any more and I gave up.) I thought I’d have to relent. I said that I’d do as you tell me, just don’t beat me.
Then some other sahib came, I told the truth to him too. Par unhone bhi mujhe maara aur kaha iski tassalli karo achhe se. (But he too beat me up and asked that I be set right.)
When did they tell you to confess to the crime in front of the media?
One sahib told me that if I do as told, they would make it a case of petty theft and release me.
“When people ask, say what he (his junior) tells you to,” the sahib told me. So one sahib directed me to tell that I was masturbating in the school toilet and had forgotten to bolt the door. The boy happened to see this and I stabbed him.
I was instructed to admit to stabbing him twice. “When asked right or left, say ‘left’. Say the knife was bought from Agra and was kept in the bus’s toolbox.” They asked me to say that on the day of the incident, I had thought of taking the knife home to clean it. So I kept it in my pocket and then used it to kill the child.
Sahib ne mujhse bahut baar yeh sab bulwaya. Jab main achhe se nahi bol pata toh mujhe bahut maarte thhe. Mujhe majboori mein bolna pada. (Sahib made me say all this many times. When I couldn’t narrate properly, I’d get beaten up. I was compelled to confess.)
How was your stay in jail?
No inmate said anything to me, except empathising with me that it was extremely unfortunate. They said rich people can get anything done.
Did you have any hope of coming out of jail?
No. I thought I’d never be able to go home now. I would cry a lot and ask God what had I done to deserve this and be separated from my children.
How are you feeling today?
See, my hand is still hurting. My eyes are still swollen. It hurts even now when I sleep, when I walk. Bahut maara hai mujhe. (They have thrashed me a lot.)
Now that you’re free, what will you do first?
I’ll go to my children. I’ll sit with my mother and father. I’ll meet my sisters. Whoever lent me support, I’ll thank all of them.
Will you forgive the police?
Pata nahi. Jaise sab bolenge waise karoonga. Mere saath bahut bura hua. Mujhe bahut maara hai. (I don’t know. I will do as everyone tells me to. What happened with me was extremely unfortunate. They have thrashed me a lot.)