The undercover cop, 24-year-old Shalini Chouhan, gathered enough information to crack a blind case that had thwarted investigators for over five months. She helped identify 11 seniors who were accused of the brutal ragging of a group of first-year MBBS students in July this year.
Shalini, posted at Sanyogitaganj police station in Indore, was recently inducted into the force and Mission MGM was her first operation. Her father, a policeman, died in 2010 and her mother died a year later. Inspired by her father, she joined the force.
Dressed in jeans and a top and toting a bag filled with books, she slipped into the role of a nurse though she is a commerce graduate.
“Our officer in-charge Tehzib Qazi and SI Satyajeet Chouhan, who was leading the investigation, had pointed out the students I was supposed to keep a watch on. I used to spend five-six hours at the canteen every day, at intervals so that it would seem like I am also working and not just hanging around there all day, and talking to all kinds of people there. Slowly, we could single out the seniors who were ragging freshers,” Shalini told TOI.
In all these weeks, no one realised that she had nothing to do with medicine. “No one had a clue,” she said, flashing the smile that had disarmed the very suspects she was investigating. “No one ever took me for anyone else,” she laughed.
Qazi credits the success of the operation to the hard work by his team. “This was an entirely blind case. We had received an anonymous complaint with screenshots of WhatsApp conversations between seniors and juniors and of the locations (of apartments) sent by the seniors where the juniors were called for ragging,” Qazi said, adding that an undercover team was formed to visit the college and hostels and talk to the students.
“Investigating officer Satyajeet Chouhan had been running around the campus in civvies trying to gather evidence against some students but it seemed impossible as they were scared and could identify him easily. It was then that we decided to use a decoy and constable Shalini was perfect for this,” said Qazi.
“She looks like a college-going student and is very sweet to talk to, unlike the other police officials, because of which the students started trusting her easily,” he added.
Shalini, who otherwise comes across as a rather shy person, told TOI: “It was not easy to do this. I was told by my seniors to share things with the students which would ease them towards talking to me. There were many occasions when I had to fake names of students at that very instant and pretend like I knew what was happening. Hearing my stories, the other students would immediately start talking and I got many details.” Shalini hails from Bagli, a town of 10,000 in MP’s Dewas district.
IO Satyajeet Chouhan said that they had also used young male police officers in the case. “New joinees like Sanjay and Rinku were asked to talk to the male students and they passed on information to Shalini who would then confirm the facts,” Chouhan said, adding that even though the seniors could not rag juniors in the canteen, their behaviour gave them away.
Shalini said: “I would sit and watch these 11 students. Their behaviour was very rough and aggressive.” The cop revealed there was a ragging ‘division’ — day scholars would rag junior day scholars and senior hostel inmates would rag hostellers.
“Even in the day scholar’s group, there were many seniors who made juniors do objectionable things. They would drop the location of their flat and order juniors to go there,” said Chouhan, adding: “We matched the location screenshots mentioned in the complaint with geo-coordinates, and found the same (accused) students who were identified by our undercover investigators living in rented flats at the same locations. This corroborated the complaint.”
Qazi said the accused students forced juniors into obscene acts. Without the undercover op, it would have been impossible to identify them.
Of the 11 suspects identified, nine are from MP, and one each from Bengal and Bihar. They were stunned when they were called to Sanyogitaganj police station on Thursday and handed notices.
“They have been served notices under CrPc Section 41A to appear before police,” Qazi said, adding that all of them come from middle-class backgrounds. They are the sons of teachers, techies, well-to-do farmers and at least one of the fathers is a policeman. The MGM authorities have suspended the 11 students from the college and hostel for three months.
“It’s possible more names will come up after their questioning,” said Qazi.