In Model Town, a Nishad mother fights police repression for investigation in daughter's death

21 October 2020
Drupadi Bansal’s home in Model Town. On 4 October, the body of a 17-year-old domestic worker was discovered here. The teenager’s family, which belongs to the Nishad community, have alleged foul play in her death.
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
Drupadi Bansal’s home in Model Town. On 4 October, the body of a 17-year-old domestic worker was discovered here. The teenager’s family, which belongs to the Nishad community, have alleged foul play in her death.
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

“Aunty has gone downstairs and locked her door. She asked me to sleep in the driver’s room. I don’t want to go there. I sat on stairs instead for two hours. Please take me with you, I don’t like it here.” These were the last words a 17-year-old domestic worker said to her foster mother, on 4 October at around 4.30 pm. The daughter was calling from her employer’s landline. It had been hardly a week since Kusum, the foster mother, had arranged work for her foster daughter, at a two-storey house in Delhi’s posh Model Town locality. The employer was Drupadi Bansal, a senior citizen. Kusum, who is her in thirties, had been working as a maid in the area for a long time. Her foster daughter was responsible for taking care of the old lady.

A few hours after the call, Kusum arrived at Drupadi’s home, only to find it overrun with police personnel. She was led to a room where Drupadi’s driver stayed. There, she found her foster daughter’s body hanging from the ceiling. When she examined the body, Kusum noticed boils on the teenager’s hands, and injuries on her back. 

In the weeks since, Kusum and her family, who suspect foul play in the death, have been fighting for a formal police investigation. But not only has the Delhi Police refused to file a first information report on the death, it ruled the death a suicide without waiting for the results of the forensic examination. The family said the police pressured them into quickly cremating the body. When the family members and Kusum’s neighbours protested to demand an FIR, police officials at Delhi’s Model Town police station brutally beat them up and threatened them. The police has denied all allegations of impropriety. 

Dinesh Kumar, the station house officer of the Model Town station, which has jurisdiction over the area, said the incident was a “simple suicide.” Dinesh backed his argument on the results of a postmortem report. The opinion of the panel of doctors, as written in the report, said: “asphyxia”— inability to breathe—“as a result of ante-mortem hanging.” By any reasonable standards, this would not rule out any foul play in the teenager’s death. Kusum believes that her foster daughter was raped and murdered. The results of the forensic examination were still pending when we spoke to Dinesh. “Somebody has to tell me what happened to my daughter an hour after I spoke to her. The Bansals are lying,” Kusum said.  

Sagar is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Prabhjit Singh is a contributing writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: Scheduled Castes crime Delhi Police Nishad OBCs Baniya upper-caste Hindus domestic workers
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