FATEHPUR: “You can hang us if he (Devender Kishore Pal) is found guilty,” said a resident of Lalauli village, the hometown of one of the accused in the Unnao rape survivor’s accident.
Vouching for the owner of the truck, his family and villagers said 50-year-old Pal has always been looked up to in Lalauli for his helpfulness. “There is no shred of doubt that it was an accident. Hundreds of accidents take place everywhere. This was one among them,” Devender’s brother, 46-year-old Ram Bharose Pal said sitting in the front yard of the family’s big but dilapidated ancestral home.
Even as Devender’s brother finished speaking, his childhood friend and neighbour Prem Kishore arrived. “Right from when we were kids, he was a very simple chap. There is no chance that he could have done anything on purpose. It was sheer coincidence,” he said.
Devender was among the three persons, including truck driver Ashish Kumar Pal and cleaner Mohan Shrivas, who was arrested for the accident involving the Unnao rape survivor.
Almost all of the 250-odd villagers believe that Devender is innocent. “We do not have the time to go and protest and secure his release but we want to cooperate with the investigation so that the truth comes out at the earliest and Devender is set free,” his 73-year-old neighbour Abdul Hafeez said. Devender had moved to Fatehpur from Lalauli six months ago. He now stays with his brother Nand Kishore Pal and two children.
Even the local police seem to corroborate the villagers’ claims. “He has had no run-in with the law. He has had no criminal history,” an officer at the Lalauli police station said.
Interestingly, while family members and people from the neighbourhood claimed no political affiliation of the family, Devender’s brother Nand Kishore Pal openly declared that he was the district secretary of Shivpal Yadav’s Prajatisheel Samajwadi Party. “Yes, I am a part of the party but it has nothing to do with the accident. My brother is innocent,” he said.
Thirty kilometres from Lalauli, similar scenes played out in Samatpur, the hometown of Ashish. Four of his brother and his uncle run out of the house to prevent his mother from facing the media. “He was just doing his job. It was raining and he lost control. There is nothing more,” Ashish’s cousin Pankaj angrily said.
His uncle Suraj Bhavar echoes the same sentiment. “In November last year, Ashish met with a serious accident. He knows what it is like to suffer. He cannot to do anything of this sort,” Bhavar said.
A two-member team of the National Commission for Women met the mother of the Unnao rape survivor in Lucknow on Tuesday.