[VoxSpace Exclusive] Anatomy Of Crime : Episode Four – The Toddler Strangler

The Toddler Strangler And The Innocence Of A Madman

February 1st, 2018 : Uppal, Chilkanagar

52-year-old Jayalakshmi wakes up at five in the morning. Her daily routine involves bringing two half liter packets of milk, including one of cow’s milk. She ties her hair into a bun, removes the bicycle which guards the steel gate, and stands it outside, by stepping down three steps, into the foggy morning. She makes sure that a fifty note is cusped into her blouse before leaving the house, and when she is assured of it, she walks past a closed tailoring shop, and crosses an empty lane in which an auto is parked covered with black cloth cover. She glances at it as she crosses the lane perpendicularly and realizes that the cloth cover has been slightly pulled to one side. She grudgingly walks towards it and readjusts it to cover it properly and places a brick to the base of the cover. She then swiftly walks towards the milk van, where people have already gathered. She greets a few faces she knows and places her order as usual. On this particular day, the vendor at the milk van tells her that he’s run short of cow’s milk but assures him that he will provide it by evening. Jayalakshmi is maddened by this, as she reminds him that she had particularly asked for it. The vendor repents it, and says that it being Ekadasi, cow’s milk is in high demand. Jayalakshmi finally agrees that she’ll come back in the evening for two cow milk packets.

Jayalakshmi comes back home and starts filling a bucket of water in the municipality tap housed in their veranda. She then brings the water bucket inside and places an immersion rod into it, for it to heat up. She looks for her sari in the almirah but doesn’t find it. She knocks on the second bedroom, which is answered by a younger woman, Kalyani, who informs that she’s forgotten to bring the clothes which were placed on the rooftop last night. Jayalakshmi scolds her saying that now the clothes will be all wet, to which Kalyani doesn’t answer. Jayalakshmi understands why Kalyani could’ve forgotten the task, and quickly says that she’s going upstairs.

As she steps on the rooftop, she finds her saris hung to the thin iron wire crossing the area. She feels them, and her suspicion becomes true. They still are wet. She lets out a sigh of tiredness, and plucks out the clips, and pulls out one of the saris from one side. As she does, her eyes see something lumpy on the corner of the roof behind the sari. She shoos it, thinking that it might be a cat curled up. When there is no movement from the lump, she approaches it. It takes a moment for her to realize what the lump is. And it takes another two stretched moments, to scream the lungs out. A toddler’s head severed from its body rolls in the dampness of the mist, its eyes facing the wall, and its broken neck facing the sky….

Editor’s Note

Anatomy of Crime is a series which attempts to bring out stories behind the most disturbing crimes committed in the world that we live in. It is also in parts, a study of human psyche which drives culprits to victimize a certain situation or person. However, in this episode, of Anatomy of Crime, our research and interviews pointed not into the psyche of the guilty. What we strived for and found in more than one year of interviews was a deduction of crime, as a behavioral trait of a society, not a person itself. Due to investigative restrictions, the writers of this story were not permitted to meet and interact with the guilty to the extent they would have liked, who was arrested two days from the incident itself.

However, in conversing with the people who knew, worked and lived with him, a fair understanding of the motives behind the crime could be understood. However, the fascinating part of these set of interviews, which have been compressed for a quicker read, indicate a stroke of innocence on the part of the main accused. As such, the people around him seem to wade into neutral grounds more often than not, and that is a discerning learning that is to be taken forward. As his friend termed the guilty, ‘He was a madman, yes, but always an innocent one’. Hence, the story is broken down into different narrators and narratives to find a common thread and reasoning for the crime which never got its motive out. In bringing out this story, VoxSpace does not abide by or vouch or negative any views expressed within this article. It is a mere spectator and shall remain so in the world full of chaos and crime.

Six Months Later….

The first set of interviews were held from August 2018 to September 2018, before life imprisonment was awarded in the case of the prime accused Shekhar Babu, a 35-year-old auto driver, on the count of murder of an unidentified toddler under the pretext of cult-ish offering….

Srinivasulu (Uppal Station, SI)

In the two days post the crime, there was much confusion in finding the identity of the female three month old baby? Comment.

On February 1st, in Chilkanagar, we found the head of the baby. CLUES team on that day itself identified the age of it to be three months old. Apart from that, there were slight marks of turmeric on the base of its neck and vermilion paste on the back. They (CLUES team) determined that it was freshly applied, maybe not more than seven hours earlier. We knew then that the body had to be somewhere near only. It cannot be far. Initially we thought maybe the body was thrown into the local lake, but it could not be possible, since the lake has been under guard for renovation by HUDA people. Also the fact that the baby was a girl, I mean girl baby, it usually means that either it was killed for spite or sacrifice. No one kills a boy baby. Usually. The identity, yes, it is still unknown. The complexion looks like the baby might be north Indian or tribal. Thousands of immigrant population are seen begging on the roads or doing odd jobs. They are easy targets. Our common understanding is that the guilty found the baby near Chengicherla Junction, where there is slum of immigrants, all coming from Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal etc. Refuges and the types. They don’t have any identification. They don’t also lodge any complains. They are afraid that we will ask about their business in the city, hence they just keep quiet. Even if the baby belongs to them, they won’t say. So we never could find the identity.

What could the police discover to be the cause of death? You mentioned sacrifice and spite? Can you shed some light on it?

See, it is an ongoing investigation. We cannot say for sure why and how. But yes, in January, we arrested a cult leader. Ghorisandram Baba, in the same area, who operated out of a coal warehouse near the lake. He is followed and prayed by a lot of households here in this area. According to his followers, this Baba can assure a child, that too a boy child when a particular ritual is done. Not just poor people flock him, but also people who are rich and in politics go around for his blessings. In most of his rituals, there is a sacrifice involved, usually of lambs. But we have heard that human sacrifice has happened atleast about four to five times. But there was no solid proof for arrest till January.

In January we did find one of his followers surrender and confess, and that’s when the arrest happened. We think his teachings or rituals could have been followed in this case too. The accused has remained childless for ten years now. One can never say how desperation works. However, we are still working on the case, so we have to consider all the possibilities. It is best we wait for the conclusion.

Siva Bathukuluni, (Grocery Shop Owner Beside Shekar’s House)

Can you recall the events leading up to the day on which the baby’s head was found? We hear that you and Sekhar were friends? Do you believe in the accusations held upon him?

Four days. I think. No, no, I think three days, sir. Three days was enough. The Police people, those who wearing white shirts (referring to CLUES team) immediately brought the dogs. Labradors, I think they were, our cousin used to have them. They sniffed on the rooftop of Shekar’s home. They led straight to the adjacent house, Kumar’s house immediately. Means what. You only decide. Means Kumar had something to do with the baby’s death. He must’ve been. Sir, simple it is. He has been a recluse over a long time. He does not talk, he does not come out for New Year celebration also. When my nephew went for asking contribution for Ganesh last year, he refused to give it, saying he won’t stay at home for puja. You only think, sir. But in the evening, the police arrested Shekhar babu. I don’t understand. When the dog finds the guilty, why do you have to arrest an innocent person.

According to you, why do you think Police settled for Shekhar when Kumar is also a suspect. Did you ever talk to the police about it?

Yes sir. I did. They think because he is not having a child, he must have sacrificed a baby. Sir, you tell me, if he sacrificed or killed a baby, is he stupid to keep the head on his own rooftop?  He is an honest auto driver sir. When I was stuck in Kesargutta, in heavy rains, he came from Uppal station to pick me up. 13 kilometers without asking for a penny. He is a good friend. Yes, he is childless. Maybe god is testing him and his wife, Kalyani. But he is not harmful. The couple tried in different temples, even in Karimnagar, where there is famous baba, who had power to grant them child. Ten years, I think, without a child, is really a curse, Sir. But he was never complaining. Whenever he used to come here, he used to order chai, enquire about me and my business, tell stories and laugh about it. We even went drinking at Janta Bar every second week. When he was drunk, he used to really become wild. When we talked to the police, the police said that he was drinking the night before. To me it is unbelievable. He never drinks alone. We told them that Kumar is the one. But the police don’t believe. They say they have proof. I think the problem is his wife. His wife had complained a week, I think, before that Sekhar had beaten her. Sir, sometimes it happens. Husband and wife scold each other and fight each other. It happens. Simple matter, I think. Maybe that is the reason.

Kareemullah (Fellow Autodriver and Friend)

Two days after arresting Shekhar babu, the police called you to the station for inquiry. Could you tell us anything about it?

They called because they must. See brother, the police are also made of humans. They understand few things, but plainly are ignorant of others. They called me to ask if Shekhar Babu had told me anything. He had told me many things, but nothing which results in death of a baby, may god rest her soul. Where did he go? What did he do? With whom did he meet? They ask me these questions. To them I say, I do not know. Whatever happened and is happening is sad and unfortunate, but Shekhar Babu could not have taken a life. You also must understand. The wife was cursed. She once took Yadav’s daughter to her home offering her a chocolate. From what I heard, the wife, like any other wife, was fixed on getting a child. It is a bad feeling to live with. When God doesn’t give you something, you try to grab it no, brother? Wife used to nag him, and everyday Shekhar Babu used to tell him. She wanted a child so badly that she forced him to perform a ritual of walking up Tirupati three times bare feet. I told this to the police, but somehow, they see what they want to see. Wanting a child can make you different. There is Madness. Maybe Shekhar was a madman, but he was always innocent.

You were also instrumental in finding the body of the baby? Can you tell us about that?

This happened four days later. Three years back, Shekhar Babu, Me and another couple of friends, used to park our autos near kamaan  (arch) near Ambedkar statue, here in the busstand. The busstand is surrounded by five feet wall through, and we used to wait for passengers there. Nearby is a tea stall, which is run by old Mahsid. He called me four days after the discovery that one of his kids had found a body in the garbage dump behind the busstand. It was already rotting, almost half eaten up by rats. It is then that I immediately reported to the police who confirmed that it was indeed the baby’s body, may god bless the soul. There was also a red cloth around her, a silk cloth. Maybe it was covered in it. Perhaps it was in some sort of ritual. I still think the wife might’ve been involved in this. One of the neighbors saw her leaving the previous evening, fully dressed and calling an auto. Police never asked her where she went. In the colony also, everyone knew Shekhar’s mother was preparing for a puja on the day they found the baby. No one asks why to that too? If they knew, everyone knew. If they didn’t, no one did.

One Year Later…

The second set of interviews were held between the period of January 2019 to February 2019, when the writers of this article finally obtained the necessary permission to interview the family members. Shekhar on the other side, based on the body found, had been sentenced to life imprisonment with no further enquiry. In the meantime, Shekhar’s wife Kalyani gave birth to a baby girl.

Jayalakshmi (Mother of Accused)

When you first heard that Shekhar was involved in the crime, did you happen to believe in the said accusations? We’ve come to understand that you never protested his arrest. Could you explain what exactly happened.

If police found something, they found something. What can I do? Look, at the end of the day, my son can do nothing wrong. Even if police are saying that he did commit a crime, maybe he did, but not to harm anyone. As a husband his duty is to bear child with his wife. If he cannot, then maybe he is not a husband, maybe he is not a man also. I always told him this. A man is not required for anything else. You can see in the society. Woman can do everything, except get pregnant. If my son cannot do that, it is his fault. Then he deserves to be put into jail. But now, I am satisfied. We have a baby girl, Sujana. It is because of what he did. If he can’t do as any other man should, he should take help of others. There are learned men, who have ancient knowledge. Even Gods didn’t have children, but then they did something to get children. People know solutions to problems, we simply cannot find them. I am glad that he found something that worked.

So you are saying that whatever Shekhar did, was within your knowledge. Don’t you think it is a crime to abduct and perhaps kill an innocent child.

I am not saying that I knew. I am just saying that I understand. He is my son. If I knew I would’ve asked him to find some other way out. He chose this. Nothing else matters now. I understand why he might’ve. Kalyani had spoken to me a week earlier. Shekhar has met someone she said. A baba, who has given him hope. We seek hope, like ants seek sugar isn’t it? I was glad. You see a childless couple, is not a couple at all, as they are only sharing a bed and nothing else. There were fights, which had no reasons. And there were decisions which had no repercussions. One of them had to do something, he did.

You mentioned Kalyani coming to you to tell you something. Can you speak about it?

Oh that. One day Kalyani came to me and told me that a solution has been found for our problems. She said 45 nights we have to pray to Shiva, offering him nothing but cow’s milk, and every fortnight, offer food to a dozen babas, near the Shiva Temple. Also, Kalyani and Shekhar were supposed to attend the old Mahiratha Temple every night to offer mutton pieces to cats in the area. After doing that for 30 days, Kalyani said they were allowed to meet with the Baba. That is all she told me. She just asked me to ensure that we have enough Cow’s milk every day. And I did my part.

Kalyani (Wife of the accused)

When did you know about the abduction and murder of the baby girl?

I don’t want to talk about the past. There is no life lost. This (she indicates at the baby girl sleeping in the cradle) is that girl. It is just the god’s way of giving us back. Her father will be back soon and we shall take care of her with love and care, which could never be hers. It is because of Baba, that we are here, and I will not speak ill of her. Please I do not want to talk anymore. Please leave.

GhoriSandram Baba (Baba Who Allegedly Guided The Family Into Crime)

You are known in this area to provide solutions to all marital problems. Is it true? And how and when did you happen to meet Shekhar and his family?

I am not someone who knows solutions, son. No one does. I just know methods, ways to maybe find some. Where are all the questions? In mind right? So where can all the answers be? Simple. We have the answers for our questions in our mind. I just tell them where they are, by grace of Shiva, some people find it easily. Some find it difficult. Shekhar met with one of my sons (disciples) two years back. He was dropping my sons, somewhere it seems, and they struck up a conversation. In moments, Shekhar told my son that he was childless. A curse most of us bear. Is it not then my duty, towards my sons to help them. My son told him what needs to be done. It was done. A life for a life. A girl child for a girl child. The nature balances itself, we are just mortal sons of Shiva. All he needed was a lost child, one who had no one. Or a child in poverty who could be freed from the clutches of the evils of the society. Death, my son, is a freedom. When we free a soul, it comes back in gratitude to thank you. That is nature. And that’s how the world works.

One Year And Three Months Later…

The third interview, a rather short one, of about five minutes, happened after much effort with the prime accused, Shekhar Babu. By this time, he was charged with two counts of crime, under section 362 and murder under section 307 of the IPC. By this time, the intent of the crime was arrived at the consensus, to be a ritualistic sacrifice driven by misplaced belief in sermons. Shekhar Babu, seemingly had agreed in committing the crime, a mere week into the case. The case was sealed, and yet it was imperative that the writers of this presentation talk to him, to truly understand the crime and its repercussions.

Shekhar Babu – Prime Accused and Convicted

We understand, based on the conversations we had with your family and friends, that you were desperate to have a child. The question comes to whether it was all worth it?

Hmmm. I don’t know. I think it is. We have a child now. Sujana. She is beautiful, have you seen her? She has pale blue eyes. It is uncommon in our lineage. She is bringing happiness to everyone. That is what we prayed also. We love children, and it is only out of affection that we wanted one. I did not want to harm. I cannot harm anyone. Sometimes, I just want to come to a home, which is complete. If the baby was alive, she would grow up only to beg and fall sick. Worse even she would be sold to someone. What life is that life. It’s a rodent’s life. No, no, no child needs to be that. They deserve a life which is better than that. I just granted her that. It is my responsibility. We are all bridges between what someone needs and what someone has. She was left unattended in the slum behind the kamaan, clearly an indication of not caring. In that perspective, I think everything that happened was worth it. Maybe you understand. Maybe you don’t. Life is not a finite space of living. It is infinite. Babaji says, we all take turns in being victims and being the guilty. What is unworthy now, becomes worthy in the next cycle. Why then should the scale of measure of justice and morals, be restricted to only one life time. I am suffering now, but is it not plain logic that I won’t further. We need to understand life as a bigger entity than what we lead out of it. It is not just one singular life, but many interconnected ones. Today, I have a daughter, who knows will I have one in the next life? Lord Shiva is the seeker of the universal balance. And maybe there is a balance to be achieved in death, more than in life?

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To read our previous Episodes in the series of Anatomy Of Crime, do click the following links.

Episode One : Thirty Seven Pieces Of Her

Episode Two : The Railway Rapist Ranjan

Episode Three : The Woman Who Ate Seven Hearts

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