India

In Haryana, the life of a promising young singer is cut short

Parul, a 28-year-old Haryanvi folk singer, who gained fame for her songs dedicated to B.R. Ambedkar, documented her daily life as a singer and performer on Instagram Reels. On May 11, in one of her last posts, she talked about going to a studio later during the day to record a song.

On May 22, the body of Parul, who had been missing for 12 days, was found buried near a highway in Haryana’s Rohtak district, two days after two men were arrested by the Delhi Police for allegedly kidnapping and murdering her. According to the police, one of the accused bore a “grudge” against the victim as she had sent him to prison on rape charges.

“Our entire family of eight depended on her. She used to keep telling me that she is doing everything possible to get her brother and sisters married and settled,” her father Gopal* said.

Pillar of support

Parul’s village lies a few kilometres beyond Najafgarh's last metro station, close to the Delhi-Haryana border.

Farmlands flank the first few kilometres of the village. Beyond the farms lie rows of houses. At the other end of the village lies the modest three-room rented accommodation where Parul lived with her family.

Her brother Varun* remembers his sister as being full of energy.

After her graduation, with a B.A. in Political Science from Delhi University, Parul took an active interest in politics. She started writing songs and poems on Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

Mr. Varun said that even during her college days, Parul would often sneak out to attend public meetings, and calls for protest issued by the Bhim Army, the grassroots organisation from which Chandra Shekhar Azad formed his Azad Samaj Party.

Mr. Varun recalled how, “Parul and I would keep fighting over every little thing. But whenever I or anyone in the family needed anything, she was always there.”

As an example, Mr. Varun talks about how he had once asked Parul to buy him a motorcycle. “She did not tell me, but ever since that day, she kept saving money, and one fine day, she bought me a second-hand motorcycle. I never had to ask her for anything twice,” Mr. Varun says.

The family now depends on the small salary of ₹8,000 to Rs 9,000 a month that Varun brings home. “We have not even thought about what comes next,” Mr. Gopal said, talking about their family’s finances. He has not been able to work ever since he suffered a slipped disc. With Parul gone; the family doesn’t know how it will manage to pay the monthly rent of ₹5,000.

“She was paying for my medication. Varun is doing his best but I'm afraid, it will not be enough," Mr. Gopal said.

Inspiring figure

Bhim Army activists who knew Parul talked about the lengths to which the promising young singer contributed to their community. Ranvijay*, a Bhim Army activist, said Parul worked as a Civil Defence Volunteer, and sang Haryanvi pop numbers and devotional songs. But what she was clearly proud of, was her tribute to Mr. Ambedkar. Her last few YouTube videos show Parul performing at Ambedkar Jayanti events.  

Mr. Ranvijay said that he met Parul at a protest in Delhi last September over the brutal rape and murder of a seven-year-old Dalit girl allegedly by a temple priest in the Delhi Cantonment area.

“She used to send me links of the songs that she wrote about Ambedkar. Listening to those songs, you felt as if Parul really wanted to stir up a revolution. Those songs inspired many of us,” Mr. Ranvijay said.

Went missing

Till two days after she went missing, Parul’s family thought she did not get in touch with them due to her phone’s battery dying. On May 13, they approached the police and a missing person’s report was registered the next day at the Jaffarpur Kalan police station.

Eventually, Mr. Gopal and his brother-in-law started tracking her phone's last known location.

In trying to retrace her journey, they found the CCTV footage of a dhaba near her last known location, where she could be seen with a man. They handed over all this material to the police at Jaffarpur Kalan police station.

On May 22, Mr. Gopal was informed that Haryana police had found his daughter’s body buried along a highway near Rohtak.

“I have not slept a wink since she went missing. Had the police acted in time, we would not be here, mourning her, right now,” Mr. Gopal said, sitting on the porch of their rented dwelling on the outskirts of Delhi.

Sequence of events

“She didn't go missing, she was taken away,” Mr. Gopal said as he recalled the chain of events that led to him discovering about his daughter’ death.

A few days before May 11, he says Parul got a call from a person named Mohit who wanted her to record a song. His daughter had initially declined the offer. But she eventually agreed.

“She was supposed to wait for us that day, as we were returning from my sister's place. But she called and said she was leaving at around 3 p.m. with one Mohit in his car to Bhiwani. And she left his number at home," Mr. Gopal said.

The following day, Parul's phone was switched off. Her family presumed that her phone’s battery must have died. A few hours later, when she still did not call, her family got worried and tried the phone number she had left at home.

“A man picked up the phone and told us that our daughter was with him and that he would call back in an hour to make us speak with her. One hour later, we rang him again. The phone was switched off,” Mr. Gopal said.

All of May 13, Mr. Gopal and his relatives called up everyone they knew to find Parul's whereabouts. One of their relatives then managed to log into Parul's email, through which they found her last location near a dhaba near Kalanaur between Rohtak and Bhiwani.

“We shared this information with the police on the night of May 13 and told them to look for our daughter. They did not believe us at first and made us wait for hours and finally registered a missing person’s report on May 14,” Mr. Gopal said.

“I said very clearly that she was not ‘missing’. She was taken away by that man. But the police kept saying that she must have eloped with him,” he added.

Fed up with the police’s inaction, on May 16, Mr. Gopal decided to visit Parul's last known location himself to check if he could find a CCTV footage.

They approached the Haryana police to get access to the footage. The Haryana police asked them to approach the Delhi police. Eventually, the two police departments coordinated with each other and got the footage from the dhaba.

CCTV footage

“We could see that a man was helping Parul get into a white car. She clearly looked drugged. She was not able to walk straight. I don't know what they gave her — a pill, or beer, some spiked drink,” Mr. Gopal said. He spent the next few days looking at CCTV footage from all over the area along with the police.

On May 21, the police managed to arrest the man who had identified himself as Mohit before Parul. They found that his real name was Anil. They also arrested one Ravi, who was out on interim bail after being arrested in a rape case for two years.

“I still remember that on May 22 morning, we got the call from the police in Haryana. They had found her. It was raining and the mud must have shifted, revealing her hand. A passerby along the highway near Meham had noticed it and alerted the police,” Mr. Gopal said.

The police said they found Parul’s burnt clothes and broken phone 40 kms away from her body.

After collecting her body from PGIMS (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences) Rohtak, the family sat outside Dehli’s Jaffarpur Kalan police station all night in the rain, protesting against the alleged police inaction. Some Bhim Army activists, including Mr. Ranvijay, had also joined the sit-in.

The Delhi police have denied the family's allegations. A senior officer said that the plot to kill her was hatched in Haryana's Meham, adding that she was killed on May 11, beyond the jurisdiction of the Delhi Police.

Technically, the case was not under the Delhi police’s jurisdiction, but the police here registered the case and did everything to find her, the officer said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Dwarka) Shankar Choudhary told The Hindu, “In this case, we were extremely proactive. We were not reactive.”

Revenge crime

On May 26, the police probe revealed that Ravi had known Parul. The police said the two had been in a relationship but broke up because of the disagreements between their families.

The police added that Ravi allegedly had a history of assaulting and harassing Parul. In 2019, she lodged a rape case against him. Ravi was subsequently sent to jail for two years before getting out on interim bail.

According to the police, Ravi then met his friend Anil three weeks before the incident to plan the kidnapping and murder of Parul. However, Anil told the police that Parul was extorting money from Ravi for a music video she had made.

“We are poor people. When something like this happens to us, our daughter gets defamed. She was a very hard worker and she dedicated her life to working for us. These false allegations are being spread and we are suffering its consequences,” Mr. Gopal said.

Her neighbours were not willing to speak about the incident or Parul. A woman, who runs a small grocery store near their home, said, “We did not speak to them much. Once or twice, she must have come to the store but that's about it.”

Mr. Gopal and his relatives are now worried about the future prospects of Parul's siblings.

"People will try to find out about our children’s background. When they find out about this incident, who would want to marry off their children into our family,” a relative of Mr. Gopal said.

“Now, the police are saying they have arrested two people for the killing and that they are taking legal action. But what is the point now? Will my daughter come back? They could have started taking us seriously from May 14 onwards,” Mr. Gopal said.

(* Some names have been changed to protect the identity of the victim)


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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 11:39:29 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/the-life-of-a-promising-young-singer-is-cut-short/article65473945.ece