Deepu Sebastian Edmond , Financial Express
Hisar:When they planned the murder of a classmate in broad daylight, Kalyan Singh and Raj Kumar were probably counting on the Omerta their brazen act would induce among their college mates. They were not far off the mark. But they discounted the presence of the victim’s father, the only eyewitness who has turned up so far.
On Monday morning, Kalyan, 19, reportedly approached his classmate Pradeep Kumar, 24, who had just alighted from a bus on his way to college. Without a word, Kalyan allegedly drew out a revolver and shot Pradeep in his chest. The impact of the bullet made Pradeep spin around; he fell on his knees, facing away from his killer.
He fell facing his father, Ram Pal.
“He did not want to go to college that morning. They had told him on Saturday that a pistol would be waiting for him. Finally, I said I would go with him to resolve the issue with those two. We took the bus. He got down first, I was about ten paces behind him,” recounted Ram Pal, sitting amidst mourners outside his Shyamlal Bagh residence.
Unaware of Ram Pal’s presence, Kalyan allegedly shot Pradeep at least twice more — this time in the back — before firing about two more shots in the air. He then ran across the road, where Raj Kumar, 18, was reportedly waiting on a motorcycle. The two fled.
The Hisar Police arrested both Kalyan and Raj Kumar yesterday. They also recovered the gun used for the murder, along with seven shells of cartridges and the getaway motorcycle.
Kalyan had signed off a three-month-old grouse in blood. “It began about three months back, with Pradeep complaining that two of his classmates were threatening him. He refused to go to college,” said Mahendra Singh, Pradeep’s uncle.
Pradeep was in his fourth semester of a six-semester Diploma in Mechanical Engineering at the Kalpana Chawla Institute of Engineering and Technology at Chikanwas, about 15 km from Hisar town, on the Sirsa road.
According to Mahendra, the accused were angry that Pradeep would not cooperate in their “mass bunks”. “There was a group of four or five students who were really interested in studies. The others — led by Kalyan and Raj Kumar — wanted everybody to remain absent from classes so that the classes would be cancelled. Pradeep would not oblige,” he said.
Ram Pal agreed that the anger against his son may have had its origins in caste, probably explaining why the accused picked on Pradeep more than the others. “Here, in Haryana, caste plays an important part in our lives. My son used to tell me that they used to taunt him using my name,” he said. That is an oblique reference to Ram Pal’s occupation, handed down to him through generations, thanks to his caste.
Ram Pal is a Jangra Brahmin, a Backward Class in Haryana whose members are carpenters. His son’s alleged killers are Jats, higher in the caste hierarchy.
Concerned about the threats, Mahendra had attempted a truce once. “I went to the college in December, sat down with Pradeep and the two boys in their canteen and talked about the issue. Both Kalyan and Raj Kumar were polite; they said that it would not happen again,” he said.
The announcement of the third semester results last week seems to have acted as a catalyst. “Pradeep came back from college on Saturday, happy but scared. He had scored 79 per cent, and his classmates had threatened to kill him. They told him they had obtained a gun,” claimed Ram Pal.
It is not hard to see why tempers would have frayed. The third semester results, as available with the college authorities, indicate that Pradeep was among the eight to clear all six papers in a class of 57.
“Pradeep stood second in his class,” said Pankaj Chaudhary, Training & Placement Officer at the college. Both Kalyan and Raj Kumar failed in five of the six papers. They both scored 59 per cent in the remaining paper.
Pradeep, probably the oldest in his class, had not failed in any paper during his course. “He lost almost three years after his Class 12, because I could not afford to send him to college. He did odd jobs, helped me in my work to save money,” said Ram Pal. Yogita, Pradeep’s sister, is doing her B.Sc. from a government college in Hisar.
Both Pradeep and Yogita used to give tuitions to children in their locality. Ram Pal could not secure an education loan for his children, so he relied on moneylenders.
“Pradeep was always studying. When not studying, he was working. I remember he once went to Gurgaon to work as a labourer so that he could save money for his semester fees,” said Mohan Bhardwaj, a neighbour.
The SHO of Agroha Police Station, Lal Chand, who is also the investigating officer in the case, said three bullets were recovered from Pradeep’s body. Ram Lal claimed Kalyan fired four times at his son. Both agree on one thing — that Kalyan fired seven times, and that at least one bullet is unaccounted for. This is because the revolver recovered from the accused at the time of his arrest had only one bullet inside — it can hold eight.
“We don’t have a TV, we don’t have a bike, we don’t have a washing machine. But none of us complained. I just wanted him to study. He wanted to (take lateral entry and) join BTech, and then do MTech,” said Ram Pal.
“On Saturday, when Pradeep told me about his good results, he hinted that he wanted something. A gift, but he didn’t say what,” said the father.
Now, he will never know.