Dehradun: The recent alleged rape and murder of 26-year-old Moumita Das and also the brutal killing of her friend, 24-year-old Avijit Paul, who was accompanying her on their holiday to the Chakrata region of Uttarakhand, may have shocked the people of this small mountain state but more importantly has raised the pertinent question, are the banes of development and tourism catching up with the youth of the interiors making them take to crime
That all the four accused were in their early or mid twenties and the fact that they had also robbed the couple of their valuables and cash are indications that the tourists may not be safe in this small state which also goes by the psuedonym ‘Residence of the Gods’. It is tragic that in a region where locals and tourists alike could move about freely without fear, such a crime should have occurred, which has become a blot on the tourism and hospitality industry of the state.
That the cab driver Raju Das, had brought three of his accomplices with him in the vehicle to take the young couple for sight seeing was an indication that the crime was planned. It is not normal for a cabbie to bring three others with him, and the couple should have smelt a rat, but perhaps the peaceful and friendly reputation of the people of the region was the reason that the couple bought the story cooked up by the driver.
According to the police, the accused (all four of whom are now in police custody), passed leud comments on the girl and started getting fresh with her to pick up cudgels. When Avijit objected, three of the accused allegedly strangulated him with a piece of rope, while the fourth pinned down Moumita, who was later raped and then strangulated. However, the police claim that only one of the four accused has admitted raping the deceased, but it could not be confirmed as her body is yet to be recovered.
Apparently the four were not novices to crime, as after killing Avijit, they tied his hands and legs and dumped his body in the boot of the vehicle and drove to a secluded area where one of the accused is reported to have allegedly raped Moumita. Then after strangulating her they drove to the Yamuna bridge, from where they threw Moumita’s body into the swirling waters. While trying to get rid of the other body the headlights of an approaching car undid their plan.
The accused then drove ahead and threw Avijit’s body down the cliff at a secluded spot some distance away. The parents of the deceased lodged complaints with the police after they heard nothing from them from Oct 23 onwards when they were done to death and the Uttarakhand Police launched a frantic search but without any convincing lead. The taxi driver, Raju was summoned, interrogated and let off as he claimed that the couple had hired him but did not go with him.
The dual murder at a critical juncture when tourism in the region is just about picking up and there was optimism amongst the people that the economy would move ahead because of the increase in the number of people visiting the area from outside the state. In fact the residents of the region had invested in the hospitality industry, which after agriculture has become the mainstay of the economy of the interior region.
Residents of the area claimed that almost 60 per cent of the tourists who visit the region because of its tranquil surroundings and opportunities to go for lone walks in nature’s lap are youth and that is why initially when there were reports of the missing couple it was anticipated that they may have gone out for a long walk and enjoying nature and would return sooner or later. But the dual murder will definitely come as a setback as it will deter the youth from coming to the region, they claimed.