Two gruesome rapes, and perhaps even more a horrific ‘cover up’. One in Jammu and the other more recently, in Uttar Pradesh. In both instances the manner in which muscle power and clout is used to block investigation is visible, and yet there is barely a whisper from the organised opposition and the womens groups on this ultimate travesty of justice.
Rape has been used by a nasty patriarchal state to polarise communities and politics. A young 16 year old, clearly suffering from deep trauma, tried to kill herself in front of the residence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Why? Because a MLA of his party, the BJP Kuldip Singh Sengar allegedly raped her, and she and her family were unable to get justice. Sengar of course denied the charge, and the state government ignored it making no move to arrest the man, and investigate the very serious allegations that had moved a young teenager to suicide.
Instead, consumed by power, the alleged rapists filed a case against her father Pappu Singh who was taken into police custody. The alacrity shown was in itself a testimony to UP government partisanship. The 50 year old man was beaten mercilessly, and died in custody.
The CM claimed that the guilty will not be spared, but the MLA has been roaming around free, he has been publicly abusing the desolate family as “low class”, and showing no remorse. The little girl and her family spent almost a year to register a FIR against the MLA that was not filed by the police. There should have been an immediate registration of the case but Adityanath’s police did not take action.Six cops have been suspended and some of Sengar’s associates arrested for assaulting the father. Sengar however, a political heavyweight in Unnao remains free, after having met CM Adityanath.
The terrified family has been left to weep, with the girl in tears that do not stop and her mother bereaved, weighed under the double tragedy. They set out to try and get justice for rape, but instead lost their husband/father who sustained severe injuries during the assault.
Lengar meanwhile is active on the social media, with his Facebook wall portraying his clout with the local BJP, government and of course the police(see cover photograph). He has been busy posting his interaction with the janata, the legislator meeting the common people to address their problems. Meanwhile he remains out of the loop although the 16 year old named him specifically for raping her.
Ongoing is the right wing organisations–Hindu EktaManch– efforts to protect and support those alleged to have not kidnapped an eight year old girl from a nomadic tribe in Jammu, kept her confined as the investigation has shown in a temple, sedated, tortured and raped her before finally killing her. It was perhaps the first incident where after Asifa’s body was recovered and a police SPO Deepak Khajuria arrested, that a demonstration was taken out by right wing affiliates with BJP leaders participating to support the accused.
Since then justice has been submerged in a ding dong battle between Jammu and Kashmir, with a group of lawyers crossing all limits to prevent the crime branch of the J&K police from filing the charge sheet against the seven accused of raping and killing Asifa three months ago in Kathua district. At about 4 pm on Monday, the lawyers began protesting as soon as the Special Investigation Team of the crime branch reached the Kathua court complex. They blocked the way preventing the team from entering. However, the chargesheet was filed eventually. But the Kathua Bar Association issued a statement condemning the police and the state government for filing the chargesheet. The Bar Association said that it will continue the agitation till April 12 in the first instance, and congratulated the lawyers for blocking the police. It claimed that the challan was not filed.
AsifaBano’s family is terrified and living in fear of their lives. Local sources said that the rape and murder was to dissuade the nomadic tribes from moving in the Jammu region. Asifa was abducted while she was out herding horses in land that the tribes had always seen as safe and secure. The incident has created deep insecurity, the sources said, pointing out that given the agitation and the polarisation they are now worried about their safety in the plains.
The Mehbooba Mufti government is moving forward under the law, with the police so far carrying out an impartial investigation as a result of which a former revenue official alleged to be the mastermind Sanji Ram and his son Vishal, were arrested from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Three cops had been arrested earlier. Interestingly Ram had participated in a demonstration organised by the Hindu Ektamanch earlier protesting against the arrest of the police stations.
Asifa was kidnapped and killed in January, her body being recovered from the Rassana forest on January 17. Khajuria was arrested in February followed by a large demonstration in his support. In March after two long months Sanji Ram and his son were arrested from UP. Now in April when the police team went to file the chargesheet against the seven accused (the eighth one is under process as the team later said) they were blocked by belligerent lawyers shouting, “Go Back”. The police has registered a case against the lawyers obstructing justice.
It has been a difficult uphill battle for both the families, one in UP and the other in Jammu. A journey of desolation and fear. The families are worried, grieving, and at the receiving end of threats and abuse. As Asifa’s mother says the people arrested are not known to them, while speaking to the handful of journalists who cared to speak with the family she is worried about what her child underwent in her last days, “did they even give her water?” she asks.
In UP, the little girl who tried to kill herself does not know what has hit her as she sits crying, along with her mother who cries for her brutal past, the terror stricken present, and an uncertain and scary future.