By Mohd. Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net,
Vijayawada/Hyderabad: National capital is caught in uproar against the brutal rape of 23 year old para-medical student who is now fighting for her life in a hospital bed. Away from media galore, however, family members of victim of another para-medical student in Vijayawada are waiting for justice five years after the incident.
Exactly five year ago, on December 26, 2007 Ayesha Meera, 19 year old pharmacy student was gang raped and murdered inside the girls’ hostel she was living and brutally murdered.
Ayesha Meera, a resident of Tenali Town in Guntur district was a student of Nimra engineering and medical college at neighbouring Vijayawada city in Krishna district. 100 K.m. away from her home she was staying at Sri Durga Ladies Hostel in Ibrahimpatnam village near her college.
In the early hours of morning on December 27, 2007 Ayesha’s naked blood soaked body was found in the hostel toilet with legs and hands tied to water tap and the iron rod, with her own dress.
Her head was under pool of blood and it was clear that her head was banged on the wall and made unconscious before she was brutally raped. Autopsy report found that she was not only being raped before getting killed of brain damage due to head injury, but that inhuman act continued even on her dead body.
At that time this case caused sensation in Andhra Pradesh when the names of senior Congress leaders were brought up. Grandson of former deputy C.M. Koneru Ranga Rao(who was then Municipal administration minister) Koneru Satish, who was the Sarpanch of the village was one of the suspects. Another suspect was Congress Mandal President Cheruku Madhav Rao.
For five years, however, shrouded in lax investigations by local police, the case has seen many flip-flops. In September, 2010 the lone accused Pidathala Satyam Babu, a physically handicapped illiterate man from a backward community, was convicted and sentenced for life. Ayesha Meera’s family, however, claim that Babu was just a scapegoat to save the real culprits.
Ayesha's mother Shamshad Begum (center)
At the time of incident many Muslim groups, women and human rights organizations had protested frequently in Vijayawada when investigation of the case was not dealt properly. One such organization was Muslim United Front of Vijayawada. Its president Habeebur Rehman told TCN that he has lost hope that Ayesha will ever get justice in the present situation.
Habeebur Rehman alleged that the role of police was wary from the beginning. “The fact is police even failed to secure the crime scene, most of the crucial evidence was cleared even before police had reached the spot,” he alleged.
Rehman explained that there were 20 students on the second floor of the hostel, where the crime took place, including Ayesha’s two roommates. The only stairs to reach the 2nd floor was locked by an iron gate whose keys were always with its warden I. Padma. “But surprisingly gang of murderers climbed those stairs entered the building, gang raped and brutally killed an innocent girl and every one denied even hearing anything that night,” he added.
Rehman said locals who assembled at spot saw Sarpanch of the village Koneru Satish and Congress Mandal president Madhav Rao in the hostel even before the police arrived. MUF also claimed that their organization collected the phone records of the hostel and found that frequent calls were made to a doctor in the early morning of December 27.
MUF claimed that doctor was called even before the police to remove any forensic evidence. After MUF reveled the fact about presence of doctor at the site, investigating officer next day gave clean chit to the doctor by saying that he was present there whole day for ‘some other propose’.
Muslim women demanding justice for Ayesha
Police could not find any other evidence except a love letter written allegedly by the killer, some blood stains on the clothes of Ayesha, a left foot print in her room and handwritten word by marker ‘Chirutta’(leopard) in Telugu written on the chest of the deceased.
The case had then caused uproar in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in early 2008 when Chandrababu Naidu, leader of the opposition attacked CM Rajshekar Reddy on the alleged involvement of the kin of his cabinet minister.
Three police commissioners were changed in Vijayawada city during the course of preliminary investigation. Government even fielded Muslim IPS officer AK Khan as CP to pacify the agitated Muslims whom started believing that investigation was getting diverted.
Police during the initial period of investigation tried to arrest kin of Ayesha Meera, including her uncle, with whom police alleged Ayesha had an affair. Ayesha Meera’s father Syed Iqbal Basha said it was the tactic of the police to build pressure on the family so they would restrain from demanding justice and to bring Ayesha in the poor light in the society.
When police couldn’t find anything against Ayesha’s family, under pressure they arrested Sivanjaneyulu from Hyderabad and declared him an accused. When nothing was found against Sivan, police arrested Upendra Singh from Jagityal in Karimnagar district and later his accomplice Gurvindar Singh Anand alias Laddu who was already in jail for other rape charges. But police had to release them when no proof was found against them and when their kin approached State Human Rights Commission.
During the process of police investigation, AP Minority’s Commission, National Women Commission, and State Human Rights Commission did their own independent investigation and found many lapses in police investigation. They recommended interrogation of key players including hostel warden and politicians of the village.
Rally demanding arrest of real culprits
Infact polygraph test was done on K. Satish by the police, and the test reports reveled that Satish lied to police on two occasions, when he was asked if he knew the hostel owner, and when asked if he is hiding any facts.
As a year passed by and police appeared clueless, suddenly one day Piduthala Satyam Babu was shown arrested in the case and made prime accused.
During the process of his trial, Satyam was taken for medical examination, and Satyam who can’t walk without the support of others, according to police, escaped from the custody of 10 officers. But when Dalit organizations started protests fearing his encounter, he was declared found after some hours.
Satyam Babu, a Christian Dalit who is suffering from GB syndrome and can hardly walk, was convicted in September, 2010 in Ayesha Meera gang rape and murder case and awarded life imprisonment.
But now Shamshad Begum, mother of Ayesha Meera and lecturer by profession, believes that Satyam Babu was made a scape goat by the Congress Government to save the kin of their cabinet minister. Even residents of Satyam’s village claimed that Satyam at the night of December 26 was in his village of Anasargarm and attended mass prayers of the Christmas Eve.
Speaking to TCN Satyam’s lawyer, Srinivas said “Women trial court convicted Satyam Babu on the basis of confession statement taken in police custody, and on the report from a tainted doctor of AP Forensic Lab, Dr.Venkanna (he was caught red-handed by ACB while he was accepting a bribe for making a false forensic report). And moreover that Judge didn’t allow defense lawyer to question the prosecution witness.”
Srinivas added that trial in women court was conducted in a hurried manner as government was keen in protecting their workers. Advocate Srinivas believes that in High court they will be able to prove the innocence of Satyam Babu. They will then demand fresh enquiry in Ayesha’s rape and murder case to make sure that real culprits are brought to justice, he added.
Syed Iqbal Basha, a mathematics teacher and father of Ayesha Meera told TCN, “Even after five years of suffering we have not received justice as police failed to make proper and unbiased investigation.” He added that the family met even the Vice-president Hamid Ansari and other senior government officials in the state to beg for justice and fair investigation but they got nothing but lip service.
Iqbal also alleges that when he, accompanied by MIM president Assaduddin Owaisi, met the then Chief Minister Rajshekar Reddy he asked him to take 75,000 rupees and close the matter as it was matter of ‘unholy love affair between uncle and her niece’.
Iqbal said he was disheartened by the words of CM and refused to accept the ex-gratia and demanded justice.
Kaneez Fatima, Joint Secretary of Civil Liberties Monitoring committee, said that Ayesha’s case proves how influential people often influence the course of investigation, and how parents whose daughter were raped and murdered have to face all kind of discrimination, even by the CM.
Fatima added late YS Rajshekar Reddy was responsible for diverting the investigation and denying justice to the family. She said it was the duty of Muslim leadership to get justice for their community’s daughter, in which they have failed shamefully.
She also said that although the investigation is being diverted, but it’s never been too late for the justice to be done. She demanded CBI enquiry into the case for free and fair probe.
Assaduddin Owaisi speaking to the local protesters
Shamshad Begum was upset that most of the community leaders and members did not stand with the family in the time of need, and its leaders often betrayed them. She said once she went to the office of senior Congress leader and then electricity minister Mohd. Ali Shabbir but he didn’t even bother to respond to her salam and she was not allowed to enter his office.
The family of Ayesha Meera said they are stuck in a situation where they can’t do anything except to wait for the judgment of the High Court on Satyam Babu, only when Satyam Babu is proven innocent they can move to court for a fresh investigation.
The family is resolute though that they will fight till end to get justice for their daughter. Breaking down into tears Iqbal said that he believes in Allah and that even if courts failed to provide justice, Allah will definitely listen to their plight, and will provide peace to their daughter’s soul.
He added that his daughter Ayesha was born and died on the same days as Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto’s death brought revolution in Pakistan, and he said he is waiting to see revolution of Ayesha’s part in Andhra Pradesh as an uprising for the protection and safety of many other daughters, like it is currently going on in Delhi.