The claim by the owner of the truck that has left the Unnao gang-rape complainant critically injured, that he had blackened its number plate to avoid his lenders, has come under stress.
Truck owner Devendra Kishore Pal, who is in judicial custody, had told police on Monday that he had bought the truck on a loan from private financiers but was unable to repay them. He had blackened the number plate “so that they wouldn’t be able to identify it”.
A “collection manager” of the Kanpur branch of a lending firm, however, called the local media to his office on Friday to say Devendra had been paying his EMIs on time.
“We financed three of Devendra Kishore’s trucks. He recently completed repaying the entire loan for one of them and has been paying the EMIs for the remaining two on time,” he said, asking not to be named.
“He has not delayed paying the EMI even once. So, there must be some other reason why he covered up the number plate.”
This newspaper later made several calls to the Kanpur office of Orix Leasing and Financial Services Limited but they went unanswered.
A CBI source had on Thursday told this newspaper that the preliminary investigations suggested that Sunday’s truck-car collision, which has left the gang-rape complainant and her lawyer fighting for life and killed two of her aunts, resulted from “an intentional attempt”.
BJP lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar, 55, in jail custody on the Unnao gang-rape charges since last year, has been booked for murder over the truck-car collision.
Although suspended from the party two days ago, Kuldeep remains a BJP legislator since the party has not written to the Speaker to disqualify him.
Sandeep Tiwari, spokesperson for the King George’s Medical University, Lucknow, said: “We have been forced to put the (Unnao) girl back on ventilator on Friday after briefly watching her condition without it.”
He said the lawyer, who had been taken off the ventilator on Wednesday, had also been put back on the life support system “because his condition was deteriorating”.
Conversations with Devendra’s brother and sources close to Kuldeep have revealed that the families of both are from Fatehpur district, as is the family of the truck driver, Ashish Kumar Pal, also in custody.
Kuldeep’s grandfather Shivraj lived in Muktipur village in Fatehpur, 90km south of Unnao, where the Bangermau MLA is now based.
Sources close to Kuldeep said that one of Shivraj’s three sons, Kamal aka Mulayam Singh, married a woman from Unnao and shifted to his in-laws’ home in Sarai Thok Makhi village. Kuldeep is Mulayam’s son.
Devendra lives in Saatana Mohalla in Fatehpur. His business partner and elder brother Nand Kishore told The Telegraph he (Nand) had till 2011 been a district secretary with the Samajwadi Party. Kuldeep had been a Samajwadi MLA from 2007 to 2017.
Nand Kishore said he and his entire family left the Samajwadis to join the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2011. He recently shifted to the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), floated by Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Yadav last year.
Nand Kishore and Devendra own 27 trucks and use them to transport sand and bricks.
“Devendra, Ashish and truck cleaner Mohan Srivas are in judicial custody. We have asked Nand and his family not to go anywhere outside the district as the CBI will interrogate them,” Satyendra Singh, inspector-in-charge of Jail Chowki in Fatehpur, said.
Mohan is from Pailani in Banda, 75km south of Fatehpur.
Ties gone sour
Kuldeep has an old Bahujan Samaj Party link with the Unnao woman’s family.
One of her uncles, who alleges being framed by the MLA in an arms case and is on parole from jail since Sunday’s highway collision, told reporters his family’s ties with Kuldeep had soured after 2010.
“Kuldeep was a sand-mining contractor and my eldest brother used to work for him. Our family was the first to enter politics, when my eldest brother contested and won a rural election to the Block Development Committee in 1990 against the wishes of Kuldeep, who had political ambitions himself,” he said.
“This soured their relations for a while but my brother stayed loyal to Kuldeep. He was very close to a senior BSP leader and got Kuldeep inducted into the party. Kuldeep joined the Samajwadis in 2007 and twice became MLA before switching to the BJP in 2017.”
The uncle said he and another brother --- the father of the gang-rape complainant --- used to work as political aides to Kuldeep. But after their eldest brother was shot dead in 2010 in a still unsolved crime in the Collectorganj area of Unnao, the families’ ties got strained.
“Kuldeep’s men began registering false cases against me and my other brother, who was also framed in an arms case and was murdered last year,” the uncle said.
The gang-rape complainant’s father died in Unnao jail in April 2018, the day after her allegation of gang rape acquired wide publicity.
Kuldeep is in Unnao jail on the gang-rape charges along with his brother Atul and two aides, who are also charged with murdering the woman’s father with the help of policemen in prison.
On Wednesday, the CBI charged 19 people, including 10 “unknown” ones, with murder in connection with Sunday’s collision.
Among them are Kuldeep, younger brother Manoj, aide Rinku Singh, and Arun Singh, son-in-law of the state’s junior agriculture minister, Ranvendra Pratap Singh. Arun is accused of trying to bully the young woman’s family into withdrawing the cases of gang rape and murder (of the woman’s father).
The uncle who spoke to reporters on Friday was later arrested and put in Rae Bareli jail --- allegedly to prevent him pursuing the gang-rape case and the murder of his brother. The collision happened when the woman was returning to Unnao after meeting him in the Rae Bareli jail.
Suraj Pal Singh, father of truck driver Ashish, said: “I have never seen Kuldeep and have no relations with him. It was just an accident.”