This was one of my first encounters with Inspector Chougle. I was sitting in my office chamber, tired after having finished the morning chores of my infant child. As had become my habit, I would ask for tea soon after reaching office. How do other mothers cope, I wondered.
Instead of getting me the much needed pot, my office peon hesitantly entered my room and informed me that two local government officers wanted to meet me. Usher them in and my tea please, I told him.
The duo walked in and, with a rather straight face, one of them informed me of the rape of a young child in a Maruti car. I was shell shocked and asked disbelievingly if they were telling me the truth. One of them broke down saying that it is his daughter, making me realise the gravity of the issue. Tea forgotten, I started finding out about the police station in whose jurisdiction the offence was committed. The inspector summoned, reached my office in flat ten minutes. Beauty of those days. Few cars, smooth traffic, small town. The officer’s reaction was of disbelief of the kind that I had shown initially.
By now the father of the girl had regained his composure, and could coherently explain the sequence of events. I advised them to go with the inspector and lodge a formal complaint.
And I called for Inspector Chougle of local fame. I had heard a lot about him but never yet seen him in action. Sharing the incident, I asked if he could help me while the father was lodging his plaint with the inspector.
“Sure”, he replied, saluted and left my office. I could see he was thinking deeply. It struck me that he had not disbelieved the ‘ story’, as had the earlier inspector.
Soon, the local police station updated me that the child had been sent for medical examination after the FIR, and that the news had spread like wild fire. The Control Room Officer also rang in with information about public response to the case. It had been taken very badly by women, who I was informed were planning agitation.
The place of offence had to be identified, the local inspector and the staff did that on the basis of some clues that the victim child provided. Her medical examination was most important. The inspector also felt that it would not be appropriate to take the child to the place of offence. She was already traumatized and crowds that may gather would disturb her no end. I agreed.
In the meanwhile, her school closed, sounding a clarion call to the police. We became busy in planning the response to women and students who might take to the streets. Local police must navigate though a lot of paper work and formalities in cases like this. I did not look at the watch but, sometime in the late afternoon, the peon informed me that Inspector Chougle wanted to see me.
“Of course”, I said, thinking he would bring some clue.
A thoughtful Chougle walked in, took a seat and said, “The case is true and “X” is the culprit”.
It took me a minute to grasp the fact that he had already detected the case.
“But how?”, I asked.
The Inspector explained that he had visited the police station while the father was lodging the case and accompanied the child for medical check-up. On the way, he got a rough idea where the Maruti car could have been parked. It was red in colour. From hospital, Inspector Chougle went to the spot that he had roughly identified. By afternoon, a lot of children returning from school passed that area. Being in uniform and a well respected officer, some students stopped by to have a ‘look’ at him.
The Inspector engaged them in a casual conversation about school timings, tuition timings etc. He realized that some of them could be passing the stretch for morning tuitions. The time of alleged rape was roughly the same. Would any student remember a red Maruti parked there by any chance? Of course, replied a few. One girl remembered the last three digits too. Thanking them and promising them a visit to their school, inspector headed for the local RTO (Regional Transport Office).
Computers had not yet arrived on the scene, but some guys are better than even computers. The Inspector was lucky to have befriended one. Later I would learn that he had similar friends in most other departments. Soon, details of all red Maruti cars in town were with the Inspector, and one particular car did have the last three digits the students had told the Inspector about. Address of the owner had to be on record of the RTO, and there it was.
From RTO office to the industrial area took the Inspector about twenty minutes. Confronting the owner, Chougle demanded to know his whereabouts early that morning. Receiving no satisfactory reply, he put the owner of the Maruti in his jeep and took him to the police station where the child, after her medical examination, was clarifying some details to the Investigating Officer.
Making the car owner stand so he was visible from a window, he asked the child to have a look. I am told that the child very vigorously nodded her head in affirmation and clutched Chougle’s hands. Her father, realising that the accused had been identified, was beside himself with rage. He had to be controlled by police officers on the spot.
So here was my introduction to Inspector Chougle. He had solved the case while ink on the FIR had not yet dried. But he did not smile. Thoughtfulness and determination were writ large on his face.
The calls for agitation and protests did not materialise as, by evening, the accused had been produced before the local Magistrate who directed full fourteen days police custody. The entire district was in subdued spirits. Detection and arrest of accused within a matter of hours was welcomed, but thoughts of how to explain such perverse beings haunted the district town. It took us long to get back to normal. The father of the victim child took a transfer and moved his family out of the district.
I was told that the inspector kept his promise to deliver a formal talk in the school and students gave him a standing ovation for his brilliant and very timely detection. However Chougle flagged the issue of how to prevent such crimes. I, too, am wondering…
The author, Meeran Chadha Borwankar, is a serving Police Officer of Maharashtra Cadre.
She believes that her uniform enables her to expedite the social change she wants to see in India, especially for girls and women.
To contact Meeran, visit her website:
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