Officially, Ajit Singh died in a road accident 8km from his village in Haryana’s Rohtak district at 7 am on April 1, 2018. It’s what his wife, Satwanti, who claimed to be present on the spot, reported at the Hisar Sadar police station. His nephew, Sachin Dhull, explained the chain of events in his statement to the police: “My uncle, Ajit, and my aunt, Satwanti, had gone to the village Debra to check out a buffalo for purchase. [While they were out] I was informed that a car hit my uncle causing an accident. Driving carelessly and at high speed, the driver of the [Hyundai] i-20 car (no: HR 31M 7380) hit my uncle from behind. He died due to the injuries from the accident. I have identified the dead body [at Civil Hospital, Hisar]…. I request the police to find the name and address of the driver and initiate legal action.”
On April 2, a report on the front page of the newspaper Hisar Kesari laid out more details. “Ajit had climbed down from a bus and had barely taken a few steps when an unidentified vehicle hit him. Ajit dropped down unconscious. The driver fled the scene. Ajit was taken, with the help of people present on the spot, to the hospital where he was declared brought dead. The body has been handed over to his family after a post-mortem examination.”
At 10.48am, the officer-in-charge at Hisar Sadar station registered an FIR by Satwanti and charged the unidentified driver under Sections 279 (rash driving) and 304-A (death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code. Five people known to the deceased identified his body at the mortuary, including his wife, older brother, and nephew. “The body is lying on the stretcher. There is fresh blood on the nose and mouth. The chest seems sunk on the right side,” read the panchnama or police’s record of observations.
The post-mortem examination conducted at 12 pm noted “clotted blood in both nostrils and mouth”, “blue-color bruise of approximately 10 x 15 cm over the right side of the chest, multiple rib fractures, laceration of lung tissue” and “multiple abrasions over both foot, elbow, face, and forehead”.
Signed by the resident medical officer at Civil Hospital, Hisar, the post-mortem report put down the cause of death as “injury to vital organs…sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of life”.
That settled the matter. Ajit’s wife and relatives went home. The police moved on. At least 150,000 people are killed in road accidents in India every year. Ajit happened to be just another one — an ordinary end to ordinary life. Back home, his wife informally married his older brother, Naseeb, in a common turn of event in parts of rural Haryana. They expected no big changes in their life. Except one.