What actually happened on the afternoon of 01 June 2015 at Awas Vikas Colony, Shahjahanpur?
The Lede has detailed the testimony of Jagendra Singh which was recorded on video by a district magistrate after the attack on him on 01 June 2015.
There was an eyewitness to the attack on Jagendra Singh.
Sita Kumar*, the anganwadi worker who had alleged rape charges against Minister Rammurti Varma, by her own account was present at Jagendra’s house when the attack on him took place.
In order to protect her identity and ensure her safety, The Lede is not posting her video testimony given to the district magistrate at the hospital as she stood alongside Jagendra. We have, however, reviewed it and the transcript of the video follows.
“On the way, I saw Gufran on a motorcycle. There was someone else with him. Behind them there was a police vehicle. They told me to get into the vehicle.
I did not know what it was about, I thought it was because I had just given an application that is why they were calling me. After that they took me to his (Jagendra’s) house.
Gufran was there and another fat policeman, I do not know his name. They took me there, they went inside and first hit me and then him (Jagendra).
Then they poured petrol on him (Jagendra) and on me.
They set him on fire but I ran away and went outside so they could not set me alight.”
Sita, was a friend of Jagendra’s - he had helped her get blood for her husband when he was ill and hospitalised.
The widow and mother of two young girls, had filed, before the local court in Shahjahanpur, an affidavit on 28 May 2015.
The affidavit alleged serious charges of rape by Minister Rammurthi Varma, Inspector Sriprakash Rai of Kothwali police station in Shahjahanpur, Gufran and journalist Amit Pratap Bhadoriya, among others.
In the affidavit she alleges the following:
19 April 2015: She was visited by Amit Pratap Bhadoriya claiming that he was sent by Minister Varma and that she should go with him to meet Varma. Sita refused.
30 April 2015: Sita got a call from the Minister. He allegedly told her – “This is not good for your health. Come and meet me.” She did not go.
05 May 2015: Inspector Sriprakash Rai arrived at her residence, forcefully took her to meet the Minister.
At 8 pm that night she met the Minister at the PWD guest house. She stated in her affidavit that the Minister verbally abused her in front of a number of guests who were with him. He then asked all others, except Sriprakash Rai to leave the room.
“He asked Sriprakash Rai to stand guard outside the room and not let anyone in. He said “Sir” and went out.”
Sita then described how the Minister forced himself on her and raped her. Following this he allowed his henchmen Brahma Kumar Dikshit, Gufran and Amit Bhadoriya to rape her too.
She stated that they dropped her back home around midnight with a variety of threats hanging over her head.
After Jagendra’s death, Sita Kumar “disappeared” from sight – withdrawing the affidavit alleging rape from court.
The collaboration, along with The Lede, met Sita at Shahjahanpur. Two siblings, Ram Pratap Singh, a member of the Samajwadi Party and his younger brother Divakar Singh, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, have her under their “protection”.
Sita did not wish to revisit the incident. She said that she had been harassed enough over this and that she wanted to get on with her life.
Conflicting versions emerge from all sides about Sita Kumar and her role in the drama.
Version 1 by Sita’s friend: “Every other day somebody would keep coming to the house and the environment wasn’t safe,” said a person close to Sita who did not wish to be named. “That’s why she had filed a complaint. She would go to work and her kids would be alone at home.”
Version 2 by Sita’s friend: Another of Sita’s friends insists that she had not met the Minister at all, let alone suffered rape at his hands. It was with respect to slander on Facebook by Amit Pratap Bhadoriya that she had wanted to file a police complaint.
Sita, according to her friends, asked Jagendra for help. Jagendra in turn connected her with Virendra Chauhan, a lawyer based in Shahjahanpur.
“She went to a lawyer close to Jagendra – one Virendra Chauhan – and he took her signature on a blank piece of paper stating that he would file the complaint,” said the friend. “Trusting him, she did that and left. Little did she know that Chauhan would file a case in court about her having been raped.”
Jagendra’s friend, who was in the know about the case and who knew lawyer Chauhan well, spoke on condition of anonymity. “There was pressure on us so we just made up a case, filed it and sent it to the court. The rape case was a fake case,” he said. The pressure was due to the complaint filed by Amit Bhadoriya of attempt to murder by Jagendra Singh.
“Jagendra helped Sita a lot when her husband died. She didn’t have any money to feed her kids so he helped her.
She said that if they were in trouble she would help them out. So she agreed to file the fake case. To create a fake case was Virendra Chauhan’s idea,” he said.
This friend says that Jagendra and Sita had been chased by Minister Varma’s goons as they were returning from lawyer Chauhan’s residence.
“Sita and Jagendra were called by the lawyer to meet him at his residence, so they went there and when they were returning Jagendra was going to drop Sita back at her house. But on the way, the goons followed them. They did not know where to go, so Jagendra took her home and locked them both inside. That’s how they both came here and by then the police had followed them along with the goons,” he said.
Lawyer Chauhan though sticks by the affidavit filed by him in court allegedly on Sita’s behalf. “When Rammurti Varma got to know that the Sita is Jagendra’s supporter, he sent his men and took her from her house. She was raped by Rammurti Varma and his many men. I filed that case in the court which got published in newspapers.”
He says that Sita came to him for help as she was being harassed about the affidavit filed in court. “She came to me and I took her to Superintendent of Police Bablu Kumar. After a discussion with him, she and I came back to my court’s chamber. She then said she wanted to go meet Jagendra so I told her yes, you should go. So she left my chambers and began walking to Jagendra’s house. Somewhere on the way, the police took her,” he alleges.
Sita’s friend though dismisses all of these claims. “The lawyer asked Sita to sign the paper and told her he’ll fill in the rest of the details. She gave the application but she doesn’t know what he wrote in it. She has never been to a court,” said the friend.
Another friend of Jagendra’s, a journalist working with a Hindi daily spoke to The Lede just outside the Kothwali police station. He did not wish to be named.
“It is not impossible that Jagendra may have poured petrol on himself to scare the police away and stop them from arresting him,” said the journalist who claims to have been very close to Jagendra. “He was pushed into a corner and powerful people were coming after him. Him catching fire may have been an accident, we don’t know,” he adds.
Sita Kumar who, at the hospital, stood by Jagendra’s version of the story – that the police had poured petrol on him and set him ablaze in front of her – backtracked on this too. “He (Jagendra) set himself on fire and tried to set me on fire too,” she mumbled thereafter refusing to answer any questions posed to her on the inconsistencies in her statements.
The final closure report by the police on Jagendra Singh’s death was submitted on 19 April 2016, just shy of a year after his death.
The report records the statements of Rajan, Rahul and Suman Singh as saying that the day before Jagendra died, he had told all of them that he had attempted suicide and that no policeman or minister was responsible for it. The report also quotes them as stating that they had filed a false FIR implicating the minister without any basis, thanks to the “allurement of local people.”
“In this connection, after calling electronic and print media the case petitioner, his brother and mother have also made it clear in public that they have come to know this from the deceased that Jagendra Singh had burned himself. They had filed FIR in the allurement of the public and bogusly entrapped the politician. We do not wish to entrap any innocent person,” states the report.
The report then goes on to state that no evidence has been found to show that Jagendra Singh had been murdered and that the case was closed.
“No, I don’t think my father was such a person,” said Rahul Singh, son of Jagendra when asked if his father could have committed suicide as per the compromise they had signed. “If he were a coward, he would not have fought so hard. Even if we assume for 1% that he committed suicide then why did he do it? Why was he harassed and attacked, his leg was broken, false cases were foisted on him? He was slandered,” he said.
Everyone who knew Jagendra has a similar view to espouse about him – that he was simply not the type to attempt or commit suicide.
Amit Tyagi, a journalist whom Jagendra was close friends with in life, said that Jagendra had called him two hours before the attack ensued.
“Yes that day he called me with a new number that was not saved in my cell phone so when I answered the call, I asked who is speaking. He said, “I am Jagendra speaking, don’t you recognise me?”
I told him that this number was not saved in my phone. He said – “All my numbers are under surveillance.”
I asked him how he was. He said - “ I am fine, there is one case of mine that I have filed in court under Code of Criminal Procedure 156 (3).
I am trying to get some remedy in that case but if I don’t get any remedy, so I was thinking of going to Jantar Mantar in Delhi to raise a voice against it.
So I want a favour from you, as you are a big journalist from Delhi, can you tell the people you know there so they will listen to me and support me on this.
I told Jagendra - whatever you are doing, try to sort out everything and try to get a solution. I hope you will get the remedy in the court. But if you want to do any program in Delhi and you want my support, out of friendship I will surely support you there too.
His voice was a little low that day. And he said to me that whenever I talk with you I get a lot of positive energy, so I said Jagendra I also like you and respect you. You seem to me a revolutionary person.
I told you earlier and I am telling you now as well - hit the brakes and try to sort out things. I heard a little of his smile on the call. It seemed like someone had encouraged him.
I think a little happiness may have appeared on his face after talking to me because I could hear his voice – at the start of the call it was low but later it was fine,” said Tyagi.
Another of Jagendra’s friends, his protégé Raju Mishra staunchly says that Jagendra would never attempt suicide, let alone try to threaten the police. “No he was the bravest man in this district anyone has ever seen,” he said.
“The one thing I have strongly disliked is that people say Papa committed suicide,” said Jagendra’s daughter Diksha Singh. “He was not a loser who had given up on life. He was a fighter. I will never agree that my Papa was a coward and he took his own life.”
The questions swirling around the death of Jagendra Singh can be answered only if an inquiry by an independent agency such as the CBI is conducted.
Because as Jagendra’s late father, Sumer Singh, whom we met in 2018 said – “My son’s soul is not at peace. His soul should get peace.”