A gruesome murder in the house of Dodas
Standing 6 ft, 2 inches tall, the heavyset Bhim Sen Tank was seen entering the sprawling 38-acre farmhouse of Akali halqa incharge and liquor baron Shiv Lal Doda in an Innova before noon on December 11. Accompanying him was his friend Gurjant Singh ‘Janta’, an agriculturist.
It was half an hour later that Gurjant’s brother, Ranjit Singh alias Rana, who was waiting outside with three-four aides, got a call from Gurjant that they had been attacked. Rana claimed that when he and his aides forced their entry, they saw Bhim lying writhing in pain on the lawn of the fortified farmhouse some 200 metres away from the high gates. His feet and arms had been severed. A curious ‘AS’ was scribbled in blood on one of Bhim’s shoes. Gurjant, with his right hand chopped off, was lying at quite a distance. The assailants, Rana told The Tribune, fled on seeing them enter the farmhouse.
Gurjant later told the police how more than 10 men, who he claimed were Bhim’s former colleagues in Doda’s flourishing liquor business, attacked them with knives and cleavers as soon as they entered the farmhouse.
If the assailants have a sizeable criminal record, so did Bhim. Known for his “special skills” in the liquor business, Bhim, his family and friends claimed, had left Doda’s business seven months ago. He had 11 FIRs registered against him for cases like trespassing, causing grievous injuries, attempt to murder, snatching and threatening. Even Gurjant has three FIRs against him.
Nearly 28 hours after the December 11 attack, an FIR was registered on Rana’s complaint. It mentioned how Bhim, “former president of the pick-up union, used to prevent charging of illegal tax on trucks by two men, Raja and Wazir Singh, and they became his enemies”. “On December 11,” he told the police, “Harpreet Singh alias Harry (an accused in the FIR) called up Gurjant to come along with Bhim to the Doda farmhouse near Ramsara village where Amit Doda (nephew of Shiv Lal) would effect a compromise between Bhim and Raja-Wazir.”
Rana told the police that this information was conveyed to him and their uncle Jaspal Singh by Gurjant. “When he and Bhim went to the farmhouse, present inside were Harry, Wazir Singh, Radhe Shyam alias Radhiya, Gulabia, Devinder alias Paari, Vicky Pandit, Simran, Chhaju, Happy Thakur and seven unidentified persons.
They overpowered both Bhim and Gurjant. Harry, Wazir, Raja and Gulabia chopped off Bhim’s hands and feet, while Vicky Pandit, Radhiya and Happy chopped off Gurjant’s right hand.”
Gurjant, in his video-recorded statement to SSP Inder Mohan Bhatti, gave graphic details about the sequence of events: “Bhim called me up around 10 am, saying Amit Doda and others were calling him to the farmhouse past midnight and that he would have to go. I told Rana to meet me near the farmhouse. Inside, I and Bhim saw Harry with two others. As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle, men came from different directions and attacked us. They kept shouting that Bhim has to be taught a lesson for daring to leave Amit’s work and opening his dhaba. They attacked us with sharp weapons.”
In the statement, the SSP specifically asked him, “Did any of those inside tried to save you?” Gurjant replied, “No. All were hell-bent on butchering us.”
After the attack
“Shoot me,” Bhim, in excruciating pain, kept pleading on his way to a hospital in Amritsar, claimed Rana’s aides Akash and Ajay. Bhim reportedly died on the way, but the police claimed he died much later that night.
The post-mortem report tells the gory nature of the murder: the 6 ft-2 inches frame had been reduced to 5 ft-9 inches without the feet. The body had over 20 injury marks.
Bhim’s family came out on the streets, calling it a planned and cold-blooded killing at the behest of Shiv Lal Doda and Amit Doda. They alleged that the Dodas were upset that Bhim had left him a few months ago to concentrate on running a dhaba (“Punjabi Tadka”) he had opened recently.
Bhim’s father Kapoor Chand said apart from the issue of Dodas and rivalry with Raja and Wazir, Bhim was under pressure for an alleged false complaint of rape filed against him. Curiously, the police registered an FIR against Bhim and his alleged accomplice Shanty on December 11, four days after the complaint was made and several hours after Bhim was attacked.
The police, however, insist that there is no connection between the rape and murder cases. “There is no correlation. The rape FIR was registered after an inquiry. It was lodged in Abohar City-II police station while Bhim’s murder took place in an area that falls under the Bahaw Wala police station,” said SP Harjeet Singh.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and several political and social organisations termed it as an attack on Dalits as Bhim belonged to the reserved category. Raj Kumar Verka, vice-chairman of the commission, has given the police time till December 21 to complete the investigation or a CBI inquiry would be ordered.
Pictures of a beaming Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal with arms around Doda Senior in the same farmhouse were circulated. The Badal father-son duo and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal promptly dismissed it as a gang war.
The police too followed the same line, dishing out dossiers about the criminal past and present of the victims and assailants. And their rivalry.
Accused in the case
The main accused, according to the police, is Devinder alias Paari. He has absconded. He worked as a butcher, his family business. Harjeet Singh, SP, said Bhim had beaten up his father some 10 months ago, leaving him with a grievous head injury. Though a compromise was reached, “Paari nursed a grudge”. Raja and Wazir had a quarrel with Bhim over truck fee issues. “I think it was just the fear factor. The accused have told us during interrogation that they feared Bhim would kill them if they left him alive or intact,” adds the SP. Apart from believing that the murder happened due to gang war, the police investigation so far does not seem to be working on establishing the involvement of the Dodas, though Amit Doda has been arrested.
“They were not there. There is no evidence to that effect so far. But we are not defending them,” the SP said.
Why did Shiv Lal Doda have on his rolls a battery of known criminals with free access to his farmhouse, to the extent that they could call someone over and carry out such a barbaric act? Ironically, despite FIRs against them, names of none of the accused or the victims figure in the registers of bad characters and history-sheeters maintained in practice by the police.
“With a rape case filed against Bhim after the attack and SHO Harinder Singh alias Chameli Singh, known for proximity to the Badals, living in the same farmhouse for the last several months, the police have to work a lot on coming out with a fair investigation to retain the confidence of the masses,” said Abohar Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar.
The rape case that was registered after the fatal attack
A rape case against Bhim Tank is also said to be at the centre of the controversy. The FIR was registered on December 11 at 3.15 pm, about three-four hours after the murderous attack on Bhim, whereas the complaint was made to the police on December 7. Bhim’s father Kapoor Chand insists his son was falsely booked, “These were pressure tactics by Doda so that my son should bow before him. Earlier cases against my son were also registered at his behest.”
As per the rape FIR, a 25-year-old mother of two accused Bhim of calling her up at 11.30 pm on December 3 to come outside her house in Waryam Nagar, Abohar. She claimed Bhim and a few others threw her in a car and took her away. She said she was first raped in a house and later taken towards Ganganagar, where on the way she got an opportunity to escape.
Talking to The Tribune, she said: “God punished Bhim for what he did to me. He along with 20-25 men gangraped me. Not a single one of them had pity on me, despite my begging them for mercy.”
She claimed she was gangraped on December 3 night but could only lodge a complaint on December 7 owing to social pressure.
Initial FIR and later
The police have booked all those accused of murder, but there was no mention of the Dodas in the initial FIR. Following protests, their names were added as conspirators of the crime. On December 14, the allegation of atrocities against Dalits was added, but the police still maintain that the killing was a result of a gang war. “Bhim, Gurjant and Ranjit were on one side, while the others belonged to the Harry gang. It was a gang war, not just a clash between two groups,” said Abohar SP Harjeet Singh.
He insists this was not a crime against Dalits. “All belonged to different castes. If Bhim belonged to the reserved category, so did Paari, who allegedly chopped off the limbs. The group had Brahmins, Dalits, Jat Sikhs and others,” said the police officer.
AT CENTRE OF ROW
Shiv Lal Doda: An ice vendor before he became a powerful liquor baron, he runs a liquor business in North India, UP and Bihar. It was from Abohar that he had run away in 1987 after being involved in a brawl where he and his brother were accused of stabbing a neighbour with an ice pick. His brother was convicted, while Shiv ventured into the liquor business in Delhi and returned as a liquor baron.
Doda was preparing to contest the 2017 elections on an Akali ticket and was busy wooing people through his social work, by running Seth Chabil Trust, named after his father. Shiv Lal would often tell his friends how he was among the lucky survivors of an Indian Airlines flight that crashed near Aurangabad in 1993, where over 60 persons died.
‘He is innocent’
Ashok Ahuja, another nephew of Shiv Lal Doda and vice-president of the Abohar Municipal Council, claims Doda is innocent. “He has been named on public pressure. He was not even in Abohar that day. In fact, he had celebrated his marriage anniversary a few days earlier in Delhi and was camping there. Bhim was involved in criminal cases and some persons were trying to mediate. They called him to the farmhouse without telling Doda.”