Pune Crime Files | Death of Dalit girl Puja Sakat in Koregaon Bhima was suicide, not murder: Police
A probe revealed that Puja Sakat was depressed over quarrels in the family.
Written by Chandan Haygunde
The death of a 19-year-old Dalit girl, Puja Sakat, in Koregaon Bhima in April 2018 had sparked off a huge controversy, with protests across the state following allegations by her family and activists that she was murdered as she was a witness to the Koregaon Bhima violence.
However, as per a probe by Pune rural police, Puja Sakat died by suicide. She jumped into a well because she was depressed owing to frequent quarrels with her family and burning of their house by a mob in Koregaon Bhima on January 2, 2018. Police had filed an ‘A-summary’ closure report in this case on March 30, 2019.
Special public prosecutor Shishir Hiray submitted a copy of this closure report as well as Puja’s post-mortem report before Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry while cross-examining activist Harshali Potdar last week. The two-member commission headed by retired high court justice JN Patel is probing the causes of violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018, in which one person died and several others were left injured.
Puja’s death, FIR
A class 11 student of humanities at a local college, Puja Sakat went missing on April 21, 2018 afternoon from her home in Indrayani Heights building in Wada Gaothan area, Koregaon Bhima. Her family had filed a missing person report with Shikrapur police station. On April 22, Puja’s body was found in a well close to her residence, and taken to Sassoon Hospital for post-mortem which was recorded, said officials.
Puja’s uncle Dilip Sakat, a retired policeman, filed a complaint with Shikrapur police station, naming nine people, who were booked under Sections 306 (abetment to suicide), and 34 (common intention) of IPC and sections of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The accused included people from the Vedpathak family in Koregaon Bhima. Police said Vedpathaks had filed a civil suit against Suresh Sakat alleging that he constructed a house illegally on their land in Koregaon Bhima.
The police said no attack was reported on Suresh Sakat’s house during the widespread violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1. But the next day on January 2, his tin-shed house-cum-office of the ‘Lahuji Shakti Sena’ outfit on the disputed land was set on fire by a mob.
According to Suresh Sakat (who passed away in 2020), on spotting the mob, his son Jaideep Sakat and Puja Sakat hid behind a tractor and were witnesses to the incident. The same day, Jaideep Sakat filed an FIR in this case. Jaideep Sakat’s statement was recorded by the police.
“My daughter (Puja) did not give any statement, but she saw our house set on fire after which she became highly disturbed. Meanwhile, when we wanted to re-construct our damaged tin-shed house, Vedpathak filed a civil suit against us and the court ordered a stay on the construction. Vedpathak claimed it was his land, but we had been living here for 15 years. My ration card, Aadhaar card, PAN card, everything is at this address. So, my daughter was even more distraught,” Suresh Sakat had said.
Meanwhile, on April 11, Puja Sakat gave a supplementary statement to the police naming a few more people allegedly involved in the burning of the house on January 2. Puja’s family claimed that these people may have kidnapped and killed her fearing she would speak against them in court. The family also blamed the police for registering a case of abetment of suicide, instead of murder against the accused.
As per the closure report filed by then deputy superintendent of police, Manik Bakhare, the investigation into Puja Sakat’s death revealed no evidence to show that the accused named in the FIR played a role in her suicide. Also, there was no evidence that Puja was murdered.
In the closure report, the police pointed out that Puja’s brother Jaideep Sakat had given a statement on January 2, 2018, that he was the only person who was witness to the burning of the house, as all other family members were not in town. Police said it contradicted her statement on April 11 that she was a witness to the house burning incident.
Also, police claimed to have recorded the statement of an ‘important’ witness who had seen Puja Sakat around 4 pm on April 21, 2018, walking alone towards the well in which she was later found dead. So, it is wrong to say that the accused persons took Puja to the well and pushed her in, the closure report stated.
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Police said the post-mortem report shows drowning as the cause of Puja’s death. “Post-mortem notes mention some injuries on her body prior to her death, but they were not the cause of her death,” as the closure report states.
Police have also said in the closure report that statements of some witnesses including Puja’s neighbour and a boy studying in her college revealed that she was under ‘tension’ owing to abuse from family and frequent quarrels at her home. Police have also recorded statements of two locals, as per which, Puja is known to have left home on April 21, 2018, following a quarrel with her family.
Courtesy : TIE
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