Shimla, July 20 (IANS) The ‘Queen of Hills’ Shimla wore a deserted look on Thursday as the opposition BJP called for a complete shutdown over the gang-rape and murder of a schoolgirl, with all business establishments, including shopping and tourism centres remaining closed.
Amid the widespread protests, Inspector General Zahur H. Zaidi, who was heading the SIT probing the case, and two other senior district police officers were transferred hours after one of the suspects was found murdered in a lock-up late on Wednesday evening.
The other two were Shimla Superintendent of Police D.W. Negi, who was known for his proximity to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, and his deputy Bhajan Dev Negi.
Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, along with the general public in huge numbers, staged a protest at Victory Tunnel near Old Bus Stand and Sanjauli and stopped the movement of vehicles for hours.
The transport services were also affected and locals had to walk to reach their destinations.
All the shops in key tourist attraction areas of Mall Road, the historic Ridge Ground along with areas of the city remained closed as shopkeepers feared violence due to tempers running high amongst protesters.
A stone pelting incident was reported at the State Secretariat and employees were literally held hostage inside the building as all the entry gates were locked from inside fearing violence by protesters.
The BJP and CPI-M held protests and submitted a memorandum to Governor Acharya Dev Vrat separately, seeking justice and accountability for the shoddy probe in the case.
BJP leaders alleged that the police seemed busy in trying to protect the real killers of ‘Gudia’ and are destroying circumstantial evidence gathered from the spots so that the CBI cannot find hard evidence against the real perpetrators of the crime.
“It is necessary to impose President’s Rule in the state because the government has failed to perform its duties diligently,” they said, demanding the dismissal of police officials who mishandled investigations in the case.
Zaidi changed places with Ajay Kumar Yadav and D.W. Negi with Soumya Sambasivan, an official notification said.
Official sources told IANS that the decision to replace Zaidi and others was taken on Wednesday night after the Chief Secretary cancelled his three-day tour of Mandi district and reached Shimla following the murder of the suspect and the violence across Shimla district.
Another prisoner, Rajinder Singh killed prime accused in the case Suraj Singh, a 29-year-old Nepali, by smashing his head on the floor, a police officer here told IANS.
He said what caused Rajinder Singh to kill Suraj Singh is yet to be ascertained.
The cause for the altercation was believed to be revelations to the police by Suraj Singh, who put the entire blame for the gang-rape and killing of the girl on Rajinder Singh, another official told IANS.
The murder of Suraj Singh led to an arson attack by a mob demanding justice for the 16-year-old victim, whose body was found in the forests in Kotkhai town in Shimla district on July 6.
The mob ransacked the police station in Kotkhai, some 56 km from the state capital, and did not allow the critically injured policemen to be taken to hospital for treatment. It also burnt three police vehicles.
Police fired two rounds in the air and resorted to a baton-charge to disperse the crowd.
Massive protests have continued in Shimla district since the rape and murder of the schoolgirl.
Last week, the state government agreed to recommend a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case. But the investigating agency was yet to take over the case.
Expressing concern over the murder of the rape suspect in the lock-up, Governor Acharya Devvrat on Wednesday asked for a report on the incident from the government.
Director General of Police Somesh Goyal, who was summoned by the Governor, apprised him about the developments in the case.
In another development, the state high court, which has taken cognizance of the rape and murder, on Wednesday directed the CBI to constitute within two days a three-member SIT, headed by a Superintendent of Police-level officer, to probe the case.
The court order came on a plea of the state government, urging it to direct the CBI to take over the investigation.
It also directed the Chief Secretary to independently investigate the matter and take action against erring officials. The Chief Secretary has been directed to file a compliance report within two weeks.