Sonali Phogat was too young to die. She was also too old to be partying like a teenager in a nightclub in Goa -- not at least till 4.30 in the morning. This was definitely not the first time, the self-made Haryana girl who made it big on social media and immersed in political life as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, flew down to Goa for a wild time, but sadly, the last.
Goa is well known for its vibrant nightlife, which defies all rules and laws to stay awake till the wee hours of the morning. Goa is a place where you can let down your hair and throw caution to the wind. But every once in a while, something goes terribly wrong and that is what happened to Sonali Phogat.
Her family, which is still in mourning, would prefer to believe that she was murdered and the Goa police would like to indulge them by taking the investigation in that direction, but for those who have lived long enough in Goa and seen enough, this incident has the ingredients of another drug overdose case, with a mighty twist.
The two men – Sudhir Sangwan and Sukhwinder Singh, who were with her at the beach shack when things began to go downhill -- have been charged with murder. One of them, we don’t know which one, confessed to being in a relationship with Sonali.
Like every case of this nature, there are many competing versions, the juiciest one being murder. The problem with proving murder is one has to gather evidence to show that it was premeditated. At this point in time, this does not appear to be the case, but one cannot say what new evidence will be unearthed as the investigation progresses.
The police did everything by the book. But then, going by the book, in a world dominated by social media posts, is not enough. Social media demands exciting and outrageous posts. Anything as mundane as an overdose will be discarded as a conspiracy.
At first, the police and even the chief minister said it was a heart attack. This conclusion was based on a prognosis given by doctors. Accordingly, a case of unnatural death was registered, which is the right thing to do. This is always the starting point of a case, especially when there is nothing to indicate otherwise.
The next stop would be the autopsy. If this procedure throws more light on the cause of death and even remotely points to suspicion, then the case is upgraded to either culpable homicide or murder. This is where things went a little haywire. The autopsy report points to bruises caused by blunt force which need to be investigated and the police say the injuries are minor and could have been caused when she was either in the bathroom or being moved to the hotel. This really puts the forensic experts in a bit of a pickle and points to some backseat driving.
In the meantime, Sonali’s family members arrived in Goa, filed a complaint of murder and named her two male friends as accused. The accusation was that she was brought to Goa to be murdered for either economic or political reasons. A question mark hangs over this version. Is it possible to bring a 42-year-old person all the way to Goa against her will? Secondly, if she was brought against her will, why was she partying with the same men till 4.30 in the morning?
It has become increasingly clear that narcotics (MDMA) was involved in the mix. The key question was whether the tabs were taken voluntarily, slipped into her drink, or forced on her. Of course, it is difficult to understand how a 42-year-old could be forced to take the banned substance in the middle of a restaurant, with no one noticing.
Be that as it may, this case is far from over. The confession made by the duo to the police holds no value in court and if they hire a lawyer with some experience all this will be denied at the bail hearing, which would make it even more difficult for the police.
Nonetheless, for Sudhir and Sukhwinder, life just got very complicated and they will rue the decision not to rush Sonali to a hospital at 4.30 am. They will now have a lot of time to replay this episode and regret why they wasted two hours in a bathroom, apparently trying to revive her or waiting for everything to go back to normal on its own. Because had they rushed her to a hospital at 4.30, she might have been alive today.
Sonali Phogat’s story is of an enterprising, ambitious and strong woman, but with a very sad ending. And may serve as a warning to those who come to Goa to have a good time, but want more, much more, in fact, too much more.