Prashant Dayal: The whole of Gujarat was shocked when the body of an 8-year old girl was found with numerous injuries on her body on 6 Pril near Pandesara in Surat. After the body was sent to the Civil Hospital for post-mortem, it was found out that the girl was raped multiple times too. The pressure on the police was increasing with every passing as the media had taken up this matter aggressively and had raised questions about the security of the women in the state. Surat Police commissioner Satish Sharma got the Surat Crime Branch team at work led by Rajendra Sarvaiya. The first task was to find out about the identity of the victim as no one knew who was the child or where did she come from.

Teams of policemen were dispatched across Surat city with photographs of the child to find out who were the parents. The clothes worn by the kid made it seem like she belonged somewhere out of the state. Days passed and the cops even went through the records of missing children across the country but couldn’t make headway. Now, even home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja began to feel the heat of the matter.

Jadeja discussed the seriousness of the issues with DGP Shivanand Jha and he suggested that Ahmedabad Crime Branch to join in with the Surat team as they have the expertise in solving such crimes. The problem on hand was the officials at Surat were not going to take this idea well, which is common amongst different departments of the police. But because this was required for the investigation the case to move ahead, they decided to follow this order of Jha and joined forces with Ahmedabad Crime Branch.

Ahmedabad Crime Branch’s Additional Deputy Commissioner Rajdipsinh Zala, along with police inspector Vijay Malhotra, Kiran Chaudhary and Jayesh Chavda arrived at Surat. They had also brought with them three sub-inspectors and five constables to help them in the case. Having expertise in solving cases similar to the one on hand, they began with the visit to the crime spot and getting other information from the Surat team about the case. They had to understand the geography of the city in order to where this child belongs to. Seven days had passed and they were yet to find out the identity of the victim.

Inspector Jayesh Chavda got the biometrics and finger impressions of the victim in order to sift through the Aadhar database for identification, in case the child had an Aadhaar card made. They filed an application at the district court asking for permission to use the victim’s biometrics to try establishing her identity from the Aadhar database. The court gave permission to the police to coordinate with the government agencies to find out if the victim can be identified through the database. But unfortunately, the government agencies refused to share the database of the children in the victim’s age group to the crime branch citing privacy issues and that there is a case pending the decision from the Supreme Court on this issue of sharing the database of citizens in situations like this.

Undeterred, the crime branch team now decided to scour the CCTV footages from the crime spot. There were about 150 CCTV camera footages available with them, which the Surat branch had already viewed but couldn’t find out anything worthwhile. 12 officials sat with the footages and viewed them from every possible angle. This went on for about 50 hours at a stretch. What could be considered a glimmer of hope for the officials, they saw something one of the footage, which was from a camera about 600 meters from the crime spot. It was footage of about 4 AM in the morning and all the police could see was two small red dots in it. After playing it backward and forward, it was realized that these two dots were actually the light reflection from a vehicle, which stopped at the spot where the dead body was recovered for precisely 56 minutes.

This was their first clue, they now began to look at the footages of the entry and exit points of that stretch where they zeroed in on a black car. As it was 4 AM in the morning, hardly one or two vehicles would pass by, so this part was easy. But the difficult [art was to track the owner of the car. The registration number of the car was found out and the cops reached the owners after accessing the information from local RTO. But the owner claimed to have sold the vehicle sometime back. Now the police decided to meet the person who purchased this car, who claimed that this vehicle was taken to Gangapur in Rajasthan by a person named Harshsahay Gurjar on 6 April.

The Ahmedabad Crime Branch sent a team to Rajasthan who along with the local police, picked up their suspects. Thus operation Surat was a success with the joint operation of the Surat and Ahmedabad Crime Branch. But the Surat Police commissioner is believed to be upset with the way Ahmedabad Crime Branch went on to pat their own backs without acknowledging the work of their Surat counterparts too.