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No candles for Yogita Thakre

Yogita Thakre. Photo: Vivek Bendre

Yogita Thakre. Photo: Vivek Bendre  

Later this week, a magistrate's court will have a final hearing on closing the case of a young girl, Yogita Thakre, whose bruised and lifeless body was found two years ago inside a car parked on the premises of Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari's residence here.

The CID, which was asked by the High Court to investigate how the seven-year-old child died, concluded her death was accidental. But her family suspects Yogita was killed and wants the matter handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Yogita died on May 19, 2009. While the broad details of the case are well known, replies obtained from the police by the family under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and shared with The Hindu paint an unflattering picture of the police — and subsequent CID — investigation, which concluded her death was due to accidental suffocation.

The documents lend credence to the family's charge that the investigation was compromised at the outset, when the police changed the make and colour of the car from which Yogita's body was recovered to a brown Fiat Linea — despite the spot panchnama being carried out on a white Honda CRV, the vehicle in which her family affirms the girl was found dead. A copy of that panchnama was obtained by the family recently through the RTI route and it notes the complainant — Yogita's father, Ashok Thakre — being present while identifying the Honda as the car with the body. The Honda belongs to Mr. Gadkari and is used by his family as a personal car, while the Fiat is owned by Sudhir Dive, managing director of the Purti group of industries, of which Mr. Gadkari is chairman. Both cars were parked in the Gadkari compound.

Yogita's mother, Vimal Thakre, who works as a domestic help in the Mahal area, had asked the guards at the house around 5.30 p.m. on May 19 whether they had seen her daughter. She had been with them two hours earlier but the guards said they didn't know where she had gone. Then around 7 p.m., when Vimal went back to the house, she was told by Manohar Panse, the driver, that Yogita was “sleeping” inside a car. In fact, she was dead and Mr. Gadkari's personal assistant told her to take away the body in a cycle rickshaw.

The case was handed over to the CID in May 2010, after her parents filed a petition in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court saying they didn't trust the local police. Last December, the police filed the CID's report in a magistrate's court seeking closure of the case on grounds of her death being an accident. The report says Yogita died due to suffocation after she got inside a car with a faulty locking mechanism. The magistrate has set the final hearing for November 16.

If the police's conclusion is correct, the child must have entered an unlocked car which subsequently got locked, she must have struggled to get out without being noticed by the guards or others who might have walked past the car on their way to the house entrance, she left no recoverable fingerprints on the inside windows, door handles or horn of the vehicle, and then suffocated after bruising herself on her face, arms and thighs while thrashing about on the rear seat. All of this is impossible, her family says.

This article was corrected for a grammatical error

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2020 4:20:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/no-candles-for-yogita-thakre/article2624807.ece

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