3 OF 4 accused surrender in Gujarat Dalit woman’s gangrape & murder
The 19-year-old has been found hanging from a tree in Gujarat’s Modasa, with the family alleging that police obstructed due process.
New Delhi: Three of the four suspects who allegedly gangraped a 19-year-old Dalit woman surrendered before the Gujarat Police Saturday night, a week after her body was found hanging from a tree in the state’s Aravalli district.
Police have also seized the car in which she was allegedly kidnapped.
The woman had gone missing on 1 January and was found hanging from a tree near a temple at Saira village, near Modasa town, 5 January.
The accused in the case all belong to higher castes. One of them is still missing.
Till Saturday evening, Aravalli Deputy Superintendent of Police S.S. Gadhvi had told ThePrint that they were waiting for the family to complete the last rites on the body before proceeding with the investigation, even though the family had completed the rites Friday.
However, on Saturday, Superintendent of Police Mayur Patil told ThePrint, that the men had been apprehended: “We are in the process of arresting them. They are willing to cooperate with the investigation, and we are trying to communicate with the absconding accused,’’ he said.
Patil added that the cause of death was asphyxiation by hanging, as per the preliminary post mortem report, and that a more detailed forensic report is awaited. “There were no major fractures or injury marks on the body,” Patil said.
‘Took us around in circles’
The police investigation in the case, however, has come under scrutiny.
The victim was a student at the local government college in Saira and would travel to Modasa’s town block, approximately 5 kilometers away, to learn IT.
According to the FIR, she and her older sister were at the Saira bus stop on 1 January when they were allegedly apprehended by one of the accused, who threatened the sister, pushed her to the ground, and forcibly took the victim away in his car.
“The accused told the woman’s sister ‘you chamars can do what you want, but I will take your sister and if you tell your family about this, I will kill all of you’,” reads the FIR, a copy of which is with ThePrint.
According to the woman’s family, when they approached the Modasa rural police to file a missing persons complaint, local police inspector N.K. Rabari told the family that the woman was safe and had married someone from the same caste, promising to bring her back with the marriage certificate.
When they asked him the next day, on 3 January, he allegedly said it was not in his jurisdiction to act and that the family should approach Sabalpur police station to file an FIR.
Rabari denied having said this to the family but refused to give any clarifications about what he had said.
According to SP Patil, a departmental enquiry has been ordered and Rabari has been transferred out of the Modasa police station.
“We were only allowed to file the FIR after her body was found, that too two days later because we were misled by Rabari. They took us around in circles,” claimed the girl’s 74-year-old uncle.
The FIR was finally filed on 7 January, under the charges of kidnapping, gangrape, murder, and SC/ST Atrocities Act.
The family said they had also not been informed that the accused were in police custody.
“We did not know the accused were in police custody till we read it in the morning in a local paper,” the woman’s uncle told ThePrint. “Our daughter was 19 years old, she was thinking about what to do with her life and how to take care of her parents, but she was suddenly tortured and killed. Her soul will be at peace if they are given the death penalty or killed in an encounter like it happened in Hyderabad.”
“The whole family is deeply distressed. The woman’s mother and her sister haven’t eaten in days,” he added. “If we were allowed to file the FIR before, our daughter would have been alive. We want the policeman who stopped us from registering it to be punished.”
The family has now received the support of local activists.
“Under the SC/ST Act, the police is bound by law to follow the case stringently and make swift arrests, especially in the case of sexual abuse of a Dalit woman. The FIR is supposed to be filed immediately, but that did not happen. The investigation didn’t happen in a timely manner, and the police official who misled the family is still on duty.” said Kevalsinh Rathod, an Ahmedabad-based lawyer and activist. “We demand he be suspended and the family be given protection in case of any threats.”