Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar: Accused, tortured, spat out 

The June 22 murder of a Class 9 boy by another one from Class 10 at a Vadodara school is eerily similar to Gurugram’s Ryan School murder of last year. While the focus remains on the schoolboys accused of murder in both cases, the bus conductor accused of the Gurugram horror has been largely forgotten. Lokmarg went to meet 42-year-old Ashok Kumar at his home in Ghamroj village of Sohna Tehsil in Gurugram district. This is what we found.

Barun Chand Thakur’s agony will never end. Not even after justice is served for the brutal, wanton murder of his seven-year-old son Pradyuman in Gurugram’s Ryan International School on September 8, 2017. But what of 42-year-old Ashok Kumar, the man wrongly accused of the murder, propped up and sashayed before baying television camera packs, and subjected to interrogation and imprisonment on the basis of what now has been swept aside as a murder probe gone terribly, horribly wrong?

This is a tale of our times, and that it has been forgotten till major developments take place in the unfolding prosecution of the case is largely a function of the unpeopleness of the family torn apart by botched police work. For Ashok Kumar is no Deepak Talwar. Kumar, a slightly built bus conductor with all the meekness that his poverty marks him with, was freed on November 22 after the Central Bureau of Investigation that took over the probe on September 22 said he was not an accused any more.

He lives in Ghamroj village, a settlement of less than 5,000 people in a rocky barenness that stays sandwiched between the millenial development of Gurugram and the aridity of Mewat district. Ghamroj clings to the nearby forested haven of Bhondsi village for survival, be it a functioning ATM or the nearest post office. As the first anniversary of the beginning of his ordeal approaches, Kumar is not well.

He hasn’t restarted the life his innocence provides. He’s practically bedridden, suffering from severe lower back pain. Laying down in a cot in his little single storey house, he points to the region between his lower spine and hip.

What Happened at Ryan International School? 

Pradyuman Thakur was found murdered in a bathroom of his school on September 8 last year. The police zeroed in on Ashok Kumar, a bus conductor who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kumar has alleged intimidation and torture by the cops who are also at the receiving end of a supplementary chargesheet that the CBI has filed against them, officers named and included.

It took the CBI two days of investigating the crime to conclude Kumar was innocent and that a teenager who reported the dead boy in the bathroom to a school gardener was the real culprit. The Class 11 boy was kept in a juvenile home as per the law but a court last month allowed his prosecution as an adult. The prosecution continues, at a surprisingly good pace by Indian standards.

“There is severe pain in my lower back. It is very hard for me to sit on the floor or to stand up quickly. The doctors have referred me for immediate surgery but I do not have enough money for it. So I am staying home,” he says as the sun beats down on the earthern courtyard of his simple but clean dwelling, a guava tree in the centre providing the only island of shade. Kumar walked free on bail on November 22, a day after it was granted.

In the runup to the bail hearing, residents of Ghamroj started a collection for Kumar’s bail, hundreds and fifties and some thousands adding up to all of ₹2 lakh. He was finally acquitted of all charges on February 28 this year. “Almost six months of hell,” says Kumar. The most difficult phase was Kumar’s remand period with the Gurugram police when they “injected sedatives and brutally assaulted me for a crime that I had not committed”.

Kumar’s skills are limited; he can drive a van or work as a bus conductor. Only, he can’t even do that anymore. “The third degree torture of Gurugram police is responsible for this pain in my lower back and therefore I am unable to do any physical work.

I am completely dependent on my father and wife who are employed in village’s Vivek Bharti public school and earning for our livelihood,” he says. Kumar’s father Amichand enters the conversation: “My son had faced police torture and jail but it has disrupted the entire family. We suspect any stranger we see coming to our house,” he says. “We hope the trial concludes as soon as possible and that the real culprit is proven guilty in court.” Kumar’s father makes about ₹4,000 a month; about the same as his daughter-in-law.

“Besides, there’s ₹1,600 coming in every month because of the old age pension that Ashok’s grandmother is entitled to,” he explains. That’s a total of ₹9,600 to run a seven-member household, including Kumar’s two schoolgoing sons. “The low earnings of our family does not allow us to get Ashok’s lower back surgery done despite its immediate recommendation by doctors,” says Amichand. Kumar’s lawyer, a man who’s fought heroically to save his client, has said he will move court for compensation. But that remains far away, and Kumar remains stricken.

The Ryan School Murder Case on Lokmarg 

Ryan conductor walks free after 76 days in prison

Turn follows twist in Ryan School murder case

CBI reconstructs Ryan School murder

Dramatic twist in Ryan murder; Class 11 boy held

Ryan conductor walks after 76 days in prison

Ryan International School bus conductor Ashok Kumar, arrested on September 8 on charges of murdering class 2 student Pradyuman Thakur, was on Wednesday released from jail and returned home after 76 days in custody after the CBI found who was behind the crime. “I am thankful to God for delivering justice to me,” he told media after being released. His family said that it was a great reliefas their innocent family member is back home. “Haryana Police forced him to confess to the crime by using third degree force on him.. they also drugged him,” said a family member. His bail orders were provided by lawyers to the jail authority after 3 p.m. on Wednesday and after completing formalities, Kumar was released from the jail late in the evening. “After examination of the legal papers, Kumar was released around 8 p.m.,” a senior jail official told IANS. Prominent persons from his Ghamroj village near Sohna were present the whole day at Bhondsi jail to welcome Kumar when he walked out. The 42-year-old Kumar was arrested on the same day that seven-year-old Pradyuman’s body was found in the washroom of school with throat slit. The Haryana Police had claimed that the child was murdered by the bus conductor allegedly after he failed to sodomise the boy. However, two school employees — bus driver Saurav Raghav and gardener Harpal as well as Kumar’s father Amichand had alleged that he was being made a scapegoat in the child’s murder since he is poor. Amichand said his son was drugged and brutally tortured by police to own up the crime. The state police claim was being questioned right from the very beginning – and more so after the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The agency had, on November 8, taken a Class 11 student of the same school in custody for the murder. As per the agency, the senior student killed his junior just to postpone a parent-teacher meeting and unit test that day. Although the CBI has not granted clean chit to the bus conductor, it has also not found any clinching evidence against him. A court on Tuesday had granted bail to Ashok Kumar after his lawyer Mohit Verma filed an application on November 16. Additional District and Session Judge Rajni Yadav granted him bail on Rs 50,000 bond. The CBI was asked to submit the status report in the court after arguments by all parties on November 20, and the judge had reserved the decision for Tuesday. “There was no proof against Kumar and the court granted bail under Article 21 that ensures right to life and liberty to every citizen. There was major conflict between theories of the CBI and the Haryana Police and he was granted bail on the ground of benefit of doubt,” said Verma, adding the decision proved that police probe was shielding the real culprit and Kumar was implicated in the crime.

 (IANS) // ]]>

First suspect in Ryan School murder gets bail

Relative of conductor questioned over audio clip The CBI on Tuesday also questioned O.P. Chopra—a relative of bus conductor Ashok Kumar—for over eight hours vis-a-vis his audio clipping regarding the case. A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official said Chopra, Ashok’s maternal uncle, was questioned after the agency obtained audio clips in which he was heard saying that “we will put it on the school authorities. Let the situation mellow down”. Chopra told reporters that the audio conversation with a relative of the juvenile arrested by the agency on November 8 “has my voice”. He is heard telling the 16-year-old boy’s relative: “Let me get my nephew released first, after that we will find a way for you and put the whole blame on the school authorities.” (IANS) // ]]>