The arrest of eight state police officials, including an Inspector General of Police (IG) in ‘custodial death’ of an accused in the Gudia gangrape and murder case, by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has shocked the state and has shaken the confidence of people in Himachal Police —which was hitherto considered better in many ways.

The alleged cover-up by the state police during investigation of the ghastly crime, before the case was handed over to CBI for probe after public outburst, comes as a major embarrassment for Himachal Pradesh government, especially as it had been terming the state police inquiry ‘fair’ all through. The crime and the public outrage thereafter was unprecedented in a peaceful state like HP.

Such ‘police role’ in a crime case was also unbelievable, share the locals, who smack of fishy link-ups in the case, yet to be unfolded by CBI. The arrests of police officials, who were taken to Delhi by the CBI on Wednesday morning for interrogation, is hence the main talking point on streets and has left the state government blank faced, just months away from assembly polls.

“We were already questioning the Police role in this case. The arrest of Police officials by CBI may take the inquiry to right direction now,” leader of Opposition and former BJP CM, Prem Kumar Dhumal told media.

Gudia, a Class X girl from Kotkhai, had gone missing after school hours on 4 July.

Her body was found in the woods on 6 July. Her autopsy had confirmed that she was raped and strangulated to death.

The state SIT, which had made six arrests on 12 and 13 July into the crime had failed to satisfy public, which alleged the Police were sheltering some influential people.

This had led to public protests in upper Shimla, following which the state government had moved an application in the High Court for handing over the probe to CBI.

In the meantime, one of the accused, a Nepalese, Suraj was allegedly killed in Police lock up in Kotkhai on the intervening night of 18 and 19 July.

The state Police theory that Suraj was allegedly killed by another accused in the Police lock-up had infuriated. Both the Gudia case and the custodial death case were handed over to CBI for a probe by HC on19 July.

Incidentally, Director General of Police (DGP), Somesh Goel had just joined on the top post when the issue of the ghastly crime came to the fore. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by IG (South Range), Zahur H Zaidi was formed for probe, which made one arrest on 12 July and another five on 13 July.

The same day, the DGP and IG held a media conference, almost holding that the “case was solved.”

What puts the situation on the boil was the first revelation on the Facebook account of chief minister, Virbhadra Singh, wherein pictures of some youths were uploaded with reference to this case and were then deleted. The persons arrested were different from those, who were shown on the Facebook. Sources said the haste with which the case was being shown as nearly solved proved dear and led to public outrage.

The death of accused Suraj in Police lock up in Kotkhai and the Police stance therein, holding the other accused responsible for it, worsened the scenario for state Police further.