The Bihar government, often known for Sushasan or good governance, the ruling alliance lawmakers and leaders seem to have less sympathy for Muzaffarpur’s teenager Navaruna Chakravarty and her family. Seven years have passed since the teenager was abducted from her residence, and the investigation has been progressing at a snail’s pace. The behaviour of officials from Bihar’s police force and the Central Investigation Department (CID) has deeply affected her parents. The high-profile abduction case shook the residents of Muzaffarpur, infamous for being associated with land mafias. Hollow assurances became a brutal reality for this family, as even six people were arrested, justice doesn’t seem to be delivered.
Exactly seven years ago, Navaruna Chakravarty went missing from her house. On the intervening night of September 17 and 18, 2012, she had disappeared from her Jawaharlal Nehru road residence that comes under the jurisdiction of Muzaffarpur Town police station. Her father, Atulya Chakravorty, along with his wife, lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at the Town police station about the kidnapping of his daughter, who at the time was a Class VIII student of St Xavier’s School.
On September 18, 12-year-old Navaruna Chakrabarty, the daughter of Atulya Chakravarty and Maitree, ecstatic as her exams ended, had applied mehendi (henna) on both hands out of fascination. She did not have any clue that that fateful night would be her last one in her house.
Around 3:45 in the morning, according to the FIR, Atulya found the bulb in the veranda switched off, with the doors of the dining hall unlatched from the inside. He asked his wife about the bulbs, after which Maitree rushed towards the first room of the house where Navaruna was sleeping a couple of hours age and did not find her there. Maitree then yelled out of panic and called for her husband and her sister-in-law shouting, “Sona (Navaruna’s nickname) is not here, Sona is not here.” Navaruna was missing.
Atulya recalled vividly the dark drizzling night when Navaruna insisted on sleeping alone as she had applied mehendi on her hands for the first time and did not want it to get it spoiled by sleeping with her parents. After his wife’s painful intimation, he entered the bedroom and found a wet patch on his daughter’s bed, which turned out to be urine as result of the fright when the abductors must have broken into the room.
Maitree recalls memories of her daughter while sobbing, “she was very open-minded with us, never demanding, performed well in school and a nature-loving individual. She was growing up, a teenager who insisted on moving independently in and out of the house using her bicycle. All her possessions, like her dresses, dolls, notebooks, bicycle, slippers are kept safe in their place because we know Navaruna would come back one day.”
On November 26, 2012, a skeleton was recovered from a drain adjacent to their home. The ward councilor, Rakesh Kumar Sinha, aka Pappu, had allegedly pressured the municipal corporation staff to clean the drain under his supervision, and was present when the skeleton was found.
Atulya, his wife, Maitreyi, and elder daughter met Nitish Kumar at his Janata Darbar (people’s court) on February 3, 2013, and told the CM that they had no faith in the state police, who they accused of being hand in glove with the land mafia. Though the CM directed the home department to recommend a CBI probe, the central agency took over the investigation a year later in 2014, after the intervention of the Supreme Court.
A Muzaffarpur-based law graduate who knew the Chakravarty family, Abhishek Ranjan, came to their rescue by filing a petition in the apex court seeking its intervention, alleging that the state police were trying to hush up the case. The CBI started its investigation on February 14, 2014.
Supreme Court in 2018 granted the CBI the last opportunity in the form of an extension of time.
The young girl’s room was left untouched by the family for at least 30 days after the incident, hoping that the police would come and survey it. But, nobody came. The police finally visited the Chakravarty’s home on October 22, more than a month after Navaruna’s disappearance. According to her parents, the police tried their best to turn the abduction case into an honour killing but failed to do so. While doing this, they even inspected a septic tank in the house to check for any human remains, but that too was an unsuccessful attempt. The parents also alleged that the local police did their best to tamper with the evidence. Insensitivity during the investigation was evident, as the Muzaffarpur SP visited the crime scene after 33 days, the IG of Muzaffarpur after 40 days, and the forensic team landed after 45 days.
“Even the officials of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), who met us in January 2013, failed to do anything. The CBI should unravel the truth and put those responsible for my daughter’s murder behind bars,” Atulya said, adding that the police investigation was nothing but obstructing, misdirecting, and intimidating. It should be noted that CBI, in 2014, said that the motive behind the kidnapping was a feud over the house in which the family has lived for decades.
Since day one after the incident, parents of Navaruna have alleged that the then Inspector General of Police (IG) Muzaffarpur circle, Gupteshwar Pandey, presently the Director-General of Police (DGP) of Bihar, has been directly involved. During the investigation, the CBI in 2018 submitted an application to the Supreme Court requesting an extension In the time allotted for the investigation. When I reached out to Gupteshwar Pandey over call, no response came in.
Gupteshwar Pandey’s appointment as state’s DGP raised eyebrows in the socio-political circle earlier this year when he was handed over the job of the top cop by Nitish Kumar’s government. Expressing disappointment over this gesture, Navaruna’s family cried foul play, and of empowering and shielding the officer who had been quizzed by the CBI in an abduction case. He interestingly has a curious past, when Pandey had sought voluntary retirement from the service to contest the Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket. Nine months later, the Nitish Kumar administration reinstated him, after he didn’t get a ticket. How could the government appoint an officer with a controversial past as a top police officer? This remains an unanswered question.
The apex court seems to be fed up with the CBI’s lethargic inactive investigation after the agency sought an extension of time, and in reply, the top court granted it “as a last opportunity”.
“We are fighting for justice not only against the criminals-bureaucrat-police nexus, but also against the CBI, as many Directors, Joint Directors, Investigating Officers (IO) came and went but the top investigating agency has failed to nab culprits even after five years,” said Atulya Chakravarty. He further added that abduction of Navaruna was also about victimisation for belonging to a lingual minority (Bengali) in Muzaffarpur, which is dominated by a Hindi-speaking population.
Chakravarty, a former medical representative, has written five exhaustive diaries, detailing all his conversations with investigators and additionally has restricted his movement such as outings to market, temples, festive celebrations. He meets no one, no longer writing request letters to those who are of priority, and simply resides behind closed doors with an undying hope of his daughter’s comeback one day, and of life going back to how it was. He also wrote a 170-page book on the case, which possesses minute details of incidents in chronological order. In the midst of this battle, the 68-year-old has written letters to Pranab Mukherjee, the then President of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Minister, seeking a speedy trial and justice.
It’sSeven years have passed since the abduction of the teenager, and the unspoken pain of the family has not yet been addressed seriously by any of the investigative agencies, either state or central. According to the CBI, the DNA test of the blood taken out from their bodies had matched the recovered skeleton, but the family refuses to accept this. Despite the arrests made in relation to the case, it seems like justice continues to find its hands cuffed, and remains a dream for the citizens of the country.