MUMBAI/GHAZIABAD: Aruna Shanbaug’s assailant, Sohanlal Bhartha Valmiki, has been traced to Parpa village of Hapur district near Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. “I did not rape Aruna… I don’t remember anything from that day,” he told the Marathi daily ‘Sakaal’ whose correspondent found him staying with his family in the UP village which is around 75km from Delhi.
Shanbaug died on May 18, 42 years after being in a vegetative state caused by the brutal sexual assault by Valmiki, then a ward boy with KEM Hospital in Parel. Valmiki was not charged with rape or sexual assault but with attempted murder and robbery and after a seven-year jail term, walked a free man in 1980.
Reports emerging after Aruna’s death indicated he may have shifted to Delhi after his jail term was over, and some reports had said he may have died in 2011. Mumbai police on Friday said they would seek legal opinion on filing a murder case versus him.
But Valmiki, now around 70 years old, said he had never shifted to Delhi and claimed that he has been working for more than a decade as a daily wage labourer with a contractor at a power plant, 30km away from his home. “I cycle 30km to work every morning,” he was quoted as saying.
He lives not in his own home but that of his in-laws, with his wife Bimla, two sons Krishna and Ravinder and two daughters. He has a grandson, too. He claimed that he earns only Rs 4,000 a month and has to spend Rs 5,000 every six months for treating an eye ailment. He also has blood pressure issues.
(Locals gathered outside the house of Sohanlal Valmiki in Hapur village, Ghaziabad)
He asked the ‘Sakaal’ correspondent why the issue of rape had come up after all these years. “Khabar toh 42 saal pehele bhi aayi thi, tab bhi usme rape ka zikr nahi tha (News had been reported even 42 years ago, but there was no mention of rape then),” he said.
He said he had heard the news of Shanbaug’s death from a relative in New Delhi.
“Prima facie it seems this old case may not attract any fresh sections as Aruna died of pneumonia,” Mumbai joint commissioner of police Deven Bharti told PTI. But he said that the police would seek legal opinion first and then decide their course of action.
Both of Valmiki’s sons were born in Parpa. After being released from prison, he returned to his native place at Dadupura in Bulandshahr district, the older son, Krishna, told TOI. But there, he got into a dispute with his brothers and came to Parpa, where his in-laws lived.
The sons claimed Valmiki couldn’t have committed so heinous a crime. Krishna alleged that Valmiki had been framed because there was pressure on Mumbai police to crack the case.
Hapur district magistrate Ajay Yadav told TOI he would intervene if Mumbai police sought help. “It is yet to be established what the status of the case is. If Mumbai police contacts the district administration, we will extend our help,” Yadav said.
–With inputs from Purusharth Aradhak