Chandrababu Naidu must reopen the Ayesha case
Rather ironically, the Andhra Pradesh political establishment and its police do not find themselves on the same page on the Ayesha Meera rape and murder case. The Hyderabad High court last week acquitted Satyam Babu who was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a lower court in 2010. He walked out of prison on Sunday after spending more than eight years in prison for a crime, the High court says, he never committed.
The equally important part of the ruling is to identify the officers who were responsible for the shoddy investigation, resulting in the arrest of an innocent person. That’s where the conflict begins. It would also make several politicians squirm since equations have changed in the last decade.
The brutality of the murder had shocked Andhra Pradesh. In the early hours of 27 December, 2007, pharmacy student Ayesha’s blood soaked body had been found in the hostel bathroom with evidence suggesting that her head had been banged against the wall to make her unconscious before she was raped. The hostel was in Ibrahimpatnam near Vijayawada. A love letter allegedly written by the killer had been left behind and a handwritten word `Chirutha’ (leopard) using a marker had been written on Ayesha’s chest.
The Telugu Desam which was then in the opposition, went for the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government’s jugular, accusing it of trying to protect influential people in the Congress. The needle of suspicion had pointed to the then Municipal Administration minister Koneru Ranga Rao’s grandson, Koneru Satish. But the police was quick to dismiss Satish’s hand, insisting that none of the evidence on the scene of the crime, matched.
Subsequently after picking up a couple of persons who it was proved, had no connection with the murder, the police arrested Satyam Babu in a cellphone robbery case in August 2008 and then said he had confessed to Ayesha’s murder during the interrogation.
Surprisingly, Ayesha’s parents maintained all along and even on the day Satyam was pronounced guilty that to protect an important person, an innocent man had been framed by the powers-that-be.
The TDP at that time had alleged that when Ayesha’s father had met YSR, the then CM had asked him to take a compensation of Rs 75000 that was being offered and stay off the case. Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi who was present at the meeting, has however denied YSR said anything of the sort.
It is therefore no surprise that the TDP wants to reopen the case, in the hope that it will be able to extract political mileage by implying political pressure from the then Congress government to fix the case. Since YSR was then the CM, the TDP will be able to embarrass the YSR Congress as well.
Interestingly, ten years ago, Roja as the head of the Telugu Desam Mahila wing was the one leading the attack on the YSR regime. She is now a YSRC legislator and would find some of those utterances against the then powerful politicians embarrassing her now.
But not many in the Andhra Pradesh police are reportedly in favour of reopening investigation. They would prefer to go in appeal to the Supreme court. For the police to say some of its officers goofed up in investigation, under political pressure or otherwise, is not an option it would like to exercise. It would seriously dent the credibility and image of the Andhra police. This even though many senior officers say off the record, that mistakes were committed during the probe.
Caught between political opportunity and the police position, the TDP is also looking at the communal and caste angle as well. If it goes with the police decision, it will be accused of not doing enough to find out the real rapist and killer of a young Muslim girl. Satyam is a Dalit and the community is upset that he was made the scapegoat and left with a paltry compensation of Rs one lakh for spending eight years in jail. The YSR Congress and Congress would not flinch from exploiting the decision if Naidu were to leave Ayesha’s parents and Satyam in the lurch. It is only fair that Naidu should order a fresh investigation into the case.
For the Andhra Pradesh police, the added issue is to deal with Telangana as many of the officers who were involved with the investigation are now part of the neighbouring state dispensation. It will need coordination between the police force of the two states to bring those police personnel to book and fix responsibility as per the court orders. A final decision on what the Andhra government will do next will be taken after its DGP Sambasiva Rao returns from a foreign trip on Monday.
But the question remains if a fresh probe will be able to find out the real killer given that much of the forensic evidence was messed around with in the first 24 hours after the crime. It would be such a travesty of justice if the police wants the world to believe that no one killed Ayesha.