The complete story of why a man with a criminal record took 23 kids hostage

A murder convict comes out of jail after years, starts making arsenal in his basement, fakes a birthday party and holds 23 children hostage. After a couple of hours, the police gun him down and a frustrated mob allegedly lynches his wife to death. Gaon Connection travels to Uttar Pradesh's Farrukhabad to know the full story …

Ranvijay Singh
| Updated: February 12th, 2020

The first lady: “Little children were locked up in the house. Does anyone do this? It is good that the police killed him. Otherwise, the children would have been killed.”

The other lady, nodding in the agreement: “Yes, you are right. Such a man should be killed, but his wife was also in the house, what about her?”

First lady: “Don’t you know? She too was an accomplice and was killed. God only knows why they both did such a thing.”

This conversation was taking place between two middle-aged women sitting in the bus. The husband and wife duo whose killing was being justified by the two were Subhash and Ruby.

Subhash Botham, about 42 years, a resident of Kartharia village in Farrukhabad, had already served a sentence in a murder case. He held a fake birthday party for his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter on January 30 and took 23 children coming to the party as a hostage at his home. After nearly nine hours of struggle, the police gunned down Subhash the next morning. Soon after that, his wife Ruby, about 24 years, was badly beaten up by people due to which she succumbed to the injuries at the hospital. The police have registered a case under Section 302 (murder) against 300 unidentified persons for Ruby’s murder.

The matter seems crystal clear. A sentenced criminal first takes the children hostage, later the police shoot him and the mob kills his wife. But there are some questions that remain lurking, unanswered … why did the two do it? Was the woman involved in the crime or was merely another hostage in the house who later faced the mob’s ire. We will have to revisit the past to understand the situation.

More than 20 children were kept in a captive by a murder accused in Uttar Pradesh’s Farrukhabad

Seed of acrimony

In 2001, Subhash had absconded after murdering his own uncle who lived in the same village — Kartharia. A few days later, he was arrested upon the testimony of Harvir Singh, another villager and the husband of current pradhan. With this began the enmity between Subhash Botham and Harvir. 

Subhash later came out on bail and was returned to jail in 2007 by the lower court orders. After spending about eight years in jail, he got bail from the high court in 2015 and returned to his village. Subhash’s mind did not change even after several years’ jail term that only stoked his animosity against Harvir.

Subhash, in fact, had repeatedly asked for Harvir when he had imprisoned the children at home. He also gave a paper to the police, in which he had blamed the pradhan of not providing him with a house and a toilet. “He had harboured ill will against us. He used to come to us as and when he pleased, cloaked in a shawl hiding his hands as if he held some weapon. Such was his mannerism. He used to claim that he could destroy Kartharia village in a wink. Who could extend any civic facility to such a man?” asked Shashi Singh, wife of Harvir and pradhan of the Kartharia village.

Pradhan’s ‘such a man’ clearly meant ‘man with a criminal bent of mind’. The villagers also held a similar opinion of Subhash. Subhash had little work to occupy himself — sometimes he worked for wages, but largely lay inebriated at his house. When quarrelling with someone, he would boast that he could bring down Kartharia village in no time. 

Subhash’s proclamations were no empty threats as is evident from the arsenal recovered from his house. According to police, a local rifle and pistol, 20 live cartridges, 15 kg cylinder bombs, 135 bombs, four large bombs, four medium bombs, a paint bomb were recovered from Subhash’s house. 

According to the police, Subhash, who had never gone to school, learned the bomb-making technique while in jail. He converted the basement of his house into a bomb-making laboratory. The content recovered from his house shows that he had been planning it for several days. The police also said that he had gathered information about similar incidents that took place abroad, before committing the crime himself.

Accused Subhash Batham with wife Rubi (file photo)

Love with a girl half the age, then marriage and rebellion from society

While it is clear that Subhash was an infamous criminal, but it is also true that he was a human being with human emotions. One such feeling is love. Subhash, at loggerheads with the world at large, found himself in love with a girl in the year 2017. She was Ruby Katheria, who was the sister-in-law of Veerpal Katheria in Kartharia. 

Subhas Botham professed his love to Ruby and then eloped with her. A few days later, when he returned to the village, the villagers objected to their relationship. The reason was Ruby’s belonging to a Dalit family. Subhash revolted from the entire society for Ruby, and the society also shunned him. Not only that Subhash also expelled his mother Surja Devi from the house because she had objected to their relationship. Surja lives with her sister in Ahkaripur village of Thana Bewar area of Mainpuri.

The villagers talked about Subhash’s love for Ruby. Babli Devi, a neighbour of Subhash Botham, said: “He thought quite highly of her. He left everyone for her. He was equally fond of his girl-child and used to say that he would celebrate her birthday twice a year. I could never imagine him doing anything like that.” Three children of Babli were also held hostage by Subhash in his house.

Babli said: “People didn’t regard Ruby well which irked Subhash. Ruby also complained often that the villagers did not like her. But it is not correct to try killing children for this. My own three children were inside. How I passed that night! I am still shaken and pass sleepless nights.”

Babli is also upset with the fact that Subhash’s wife Ruby could have done something like that. She said: “Talking to him, I never could have thought she would do anything like that. She could have opened the door, but she remained by his side the whole time. God only knows what affected her.”

Children held hostage by Subhash spoke about Ruby’s behaviour. They were told by Subhash that they’d be shot if they dared to speak. But after a while, Ruby had said, “Leave these children. After all, we too have a child. If you do something to them, even our child will not be spared.” Upon this, Subhash scolded and silenced her.

According to the police, Ruby was Subhash’s accomplice in the whole case. She asked the children to keep quiet. It was she who had asked to demand Rs 1 crore per child. Even the villagers believe that Ruby had supported Subhash and that if she wanted, she could have opened the door. The villagers also justify Ruby’s murder. According to them, ‘he has reaped what he had sown.’ According to a villager, she was a witch who destroyed everything.

This is where the accused had kept 20 children as hostage

Was Subhash traumatised by the police torture? 

During the nine hours that Subhash Botham had locked himself in the house, two individuals were constantly talking to him and trying to convince him — Anshul Dubey, a social worker and Vikas Saxena, another history-sheeter. Sitting by his doorstep, both of these maintained a dialogue with Subhash and were even offered food by him. As per the police’s own admission, it was the cooperation of the villagers which helped greatly in the release of children from the captivity. Anshul Dubey has also been honoured by Inspector General (Kanpur Zone), Mohit Agarwal himself. 

Talking about the incident, Anshul Dubey said: “When we were sitting with Subhash, he was repeatedly bringing up the story of police torture during the conversation. He was saying that the police had tortured him brutally. He alleged that he was given an electric shock in his private parts and was also tortured in numerous other ways. Subhash had mentioned that two days before the incident, some constable had grabbed him at the Mohammadabad intersection and threatening to send him to jail. He even extorted Rs 1,000 from him.”

When Subhash was locked in the house, he was constantly demanding to summon up three individuals. This included the name of pradhan-pati Harvir Singh, Anuj Tiwari — member of the Special Operation Group (SOG) of Farrukhabad, and Bhojpur MLA Nagendra Singh. Subhash has had animosity towards Harvir Singh, but why did he want to meet Anuj Tiwari, a member of the SOG team of Farrukhabad and Bhojpur MLA Nagendra Singh? 

The answer to this question comes up during the conversation with Anuj Tiwari. He explained: “About six months ago, I had arrested Subhash and sent him to jail in connection with a theft. Action was also taken against him under the Arms Act. That may be the reason why he wanted to avenge himself.” Subhash had returned home only two months ago after being jailed in the theft case. 

At the same time, Nagendra Singh, MLA from Bhojpur, said: “I have never met Subhash. I don’t know why he was calling me. When I came to know of it, I had reached the spot and tried to convince him, but he did not relent.”

Rajni, a police constable, is looking after the daughter of accused Subhash Batham and Rubi

Stone pelting, stampede and Subhash’s death

By one in the morning, more than eight hours had passed in convincing Subhash, during which many people tried to talk to him. Anshul Dubey explained: “First we tried to persuade Subhash for several hours, but when he did not give up, people started pelting stones at him. This infuriated him and he opened the gate. It then took no time for the police to gun him down. His wife ran out, stumbled and fell, injuring herself.”

Talking about the final phase of the mission, Anil Kumar Mishra, SP, Farrukhabad, said: “When people were pelting stones at his house, the police entered it through the back gate. He got terrified and hurried towards the basement to kill the children. There he shot at the SOG in charge, which hit latter’s bullet-proof jacket. Just when Subhash was about to fire another shot, Constable Navneet Kumar shot him with AK-47, causing him to fall and die.”

Subhash and Ruby perished in the operation. All 23 children were rescued safely by the police. Subhash and Ruby’s one-and-a-half-year-old child Gauri Botham was also among these children. At present, Gauri is being looked after by the police. In the government quarters at Mohammadabad police station, Constable Rajni is caring for Gauri like her own child. “I had two daughters, now it’s three,” said Rajni. At the same time, Gauri is only able to speak: “Mummy, pipi are gone.”