Friday, July 27, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Key man in Phoolan killing missing
Police raids houses in Roorkee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 26
Even 24 hours after the sensational slaying of former bandit queen and Samajwadi MP Phoolan Devi, outside her official Ashoka Road residence, the police continued to hunt for the suspects who had escaped from the high security area after gunning her down yesterday.

Several teams have been despatched to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttaranchal to trace Pankaj, who is alleged to have driven the car of Vijay Kumar and Uma Kashyap to Delhi from Roorkee. The two members of the Eklavya Sena had come to the Capital regarding some party work.

Pankaj, who absconded after the shooting, also reportedly drove Mrs Phoolan Devi to Parliament House in the morning in the same green Maruti, which was later abandoned by the suspects on Pandit Pant Marg.

Pankaj, who hails from Roorkee, is believed to have been close to both Vijay Kumar and Uma and had driven them to the Capital on an earlier occasion as well. He is said to be running a thriving liquor outlet in Roorkee. A police party which raided his house there late last night were surprised to find it empty. His family apparently had gone underground. Both Uma and Vijay Kumar have been detained by the police and are being questioned. They reportedly told the police that they had come to see the late Samajwadi Party MP in connection with some work regarding the Eklavya Sena.

The green Maruti car, which is being examined by a team of experts from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), orginally belonged to one Ms Deepti Pillai, an income tax officer and was registered in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. It was sold to one Mansur Ahmed of Haridwar on July 30, 1999. The car was again reportedly sold to one Sher Singh Rana, a building contractor, but for some inexplicable reason the registration continued to be in the name of Mansur Ahmed. It was reported stolen from Dalanwala in Dehra Dun on September 24 last year. However, the case was withdrawn on October 21 after the police discovered that the vehicle was with Rana’s friends all along.

Incidentally, when the police raided his house in Rajputana Mohalla, Roorkee, late last night he too was found to be absconding.

Mr Qamar Ahmed, Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, said while it was difficult to claim at this stage who were the assassins, Pankaj could help in solving the mystery. His involvement, whether voluntary or forced, cannot be ruled out. He is the most important link in the case, he said.

The police also claimed to have traced the owner of the scooter rickshaw which the suspects used to escape after abandoning the car on Pandit Pant Marg. While the police were reluctant to identify him for his own safety, they claimed he had been questioned and had given a clear description of the suspects.

Meanwhile, the crime branch sleuths were finalising identity kit pictures of the suspects based on his description. These would be flashed to all the police stations, border checkposts and the police of the adjoining states.

As far as the motive was concerned, the police was reluctant to speculate even as there were rumours that it could be the result of political rivalry, domestic discord or even dispute over property. Mr Ahmed refused to comment on the motive till things were a little clearer.


Phoolan cremated at Mirzapur

Mirzapur, July 26
The mortal remains of Samajwadi Party (SP) MP Phoolan Devi were consigned to flames at Choubey ghat on the banks of the Ganga in her constituency here this evening.

Phoolan’s husband Umed Singh lit the pyre. Scores of SP activists and others bid a tearful adieu to the slain leader.

SP President Mulayam Singh Yadav, party General Secretary Amar Singh, Phoolan’s mother Moola Devi and her sisters Munni Devi, Ram Kali and Rukmani Devi, attended the funeral.

Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr Amar Singh and Mr Umed Singh accompanied the body from New Delhi. When they arrived at the Babarpur airport in Varanasi, the assembled crowd started raising slogans like “Phoolan Devi amar rahen”

From there, the garlanded body, wrapped in the SP’s flag, was taken in a procession on an open truck to the ghat. At the cremation ground, the slain leader’s mother and sisters wept inconsolably.

Preparations were being made for the last rites at the ghat since morning and a large number of people had assembled there by the afternoon. The administration had made tight security arrangements to meet any eventuality.

Meanwhile, Qayoom Khan, the security guard of slain Samajwadi Party MP Phoolan Devi, who was reportedly missing for sometime, today turned up at the police lines here and was promptly placed under suspension for dereliction of duty, a senior police official said.

DIG (Mirzapur range) Gurudarshan Singh said Khan, a Delhi policeman, came to police lines Bhadhoi and told the SP that he was sent to Bhadhoi by Phoolan Devi to drop one of her relatives.

The DIG said he had ordered the suspension of Khan as he was not “performing his duty.” His duty was to protect Phoolan and not to drop her relatives, the DIG added.

NEW DELHI: Amidst slogans of “Phoolan Devi amar rahen’’ and “Phoolan ke hatyaron ko giraftaar karo,’’ the body of the slain Samajwadi Party MP was taken to her constituency Mirzapur for the last rites earlier on Thursday. The flower-bedecked body, wrapped in a red saree, was taken out of Phoolan Devi’s 44, Ashoka Road residence, where she was gunned down by three unidentified youths last afternoon, in a procession.

The body was flown in a chartered plane from the IGI Airport here to Varanasi, from where it was taken by road to Mirzapur, about 80 km away.

Led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, a stream of political leaders today visited 44, Ashoka Road, to pay homage to Phoolan Devi. UNI, PTI

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