A Dalit Minor Was Gang Raped Twice, UP Police Ignored The First Time
A Dalit minor from Uttar Pradesh was allegedly gang-raped by the same men twice in 44 days, and a year later, the rapists set fire to her house in Laad Kheda village, causing burn injuries to her infant son born out of the rape. An examination of the case showed the UP police ignored vital evidence and registered an FIR for the first rape more than a year later, only after the minor went to the POCSO court in Unnao.
Kanpur/Unnao: It was around 5:30 in the evening on 31 December 2021, and the complainant’s minor daughter was playing outside her home when village resident Satish told her that her father was calling her to Arun’s house, reads the first information report (FIR) for the gang rape of a Dalit minor registered at the police station Maurava in Unnao in central Uttar Pradesh.
She trusted him and went to Arun’s house, where Roshan, Sukhdin, Arun, Ranjit, and Satish were present. First, Roshan raped her. Then, Satish. Then, everyone took turns raping her, the FIR said.
When she became lifeless, they kept giving her juice and glucose. When they saw her getting better, they told her Sukhdin showed her a weapon and said that Ranjit had made a video of the whole incident and if she spoke about it to anyone, they would kill her and her family, and Ranjit would put the video on the internet and destroy her.
The FIR showed the Uttar Police registered it on 2 May 2023, one year and four months after five men—four men from the Dalit community and one from the other backward classes (OBC)—allegedly raped the minor on 31 December 2021.
An examination of the case, where the minor was allegedly gang-raped by the same men in December 2021 and February 2022, shows that even though the UP police had evidence to register an FIR for the first rape more than a year ago, they ignored it until the family went to court.
The plight of the minor received some coverage last year after she delivered a child on 22 September 2022—eight months and 18 days after the first alleged gang rape and seven months and seven days since the second one. The case got attention in April 2023 when a man arrested in the FIR registered for the second gang rape, who was out on bail, allegedly set fire to the minor’s house.
Two infants, her six-month-old boy, who was conceived after the first time she was gang raped, and her three-year-old sister, were attacked and sustained grave burn injuries.
Ignoring The Evidence
The minor did not tell her family about the first gang rape on 31 December 2021, her lawyer Sanjeev Trivedi told Article 14.
But the medical examination report of February 15, conducted after she was gang raped for the second time on 13 February and an FIR was registered on 14 February, showed her to be six weeks and two days pregnant.
“If she was raped on 13 February, she could not have been six weeks and two days pregnant,” said Trivedi. “The family did not have this information, but the police did. They should have registered the FIR at the time.”
Trivedi said that when the minor’s family tried to find out why she was sick with a belly that started swelling in April, a doctor told them it was internal swelling, and they got medicines for it.
But when her belly grew, and they got an ultrasound from a private hospital in July-August, they found she was seven to eight months pregnant, which could not have resulted from the second gang rape. It was too late for an abortion.
It was then that the minor told her mother that she had been raped on 31 December 2021. They approached the police to register another FIR but were told the one written after the second time she was gang raped was sufficient.
A summary of events in the FIR registered on 2 May 2023 confirmed the police did not register the FIR: “When the complainant’s minor daughter came home, she did not say anything. A few months later, when she became pregnant because of the crime, and the complainant found out, she gave the information to the local police station, but no investigation was carried out on her complaint. The complainant then got busy with medical issues because saving her daughter’s life was her biggest concern.”
In December 2022, Trivedi said, a forensic science laboratory (FSL) report of the minor’s clothes on 13 February 2022 showed blood stains.
At this point, Trivedi said there was no doubt in his mind that she had been raped on 31 December 2021 and 13 February 2022.
Still, Trivedi said, the police did not register the FIR. His writing to the station house officer (SHO) of Maurava police station and the superintendent of police (SP) in Unnao made no difference.
On 14 February 2023, Trivedi applied for the court to order the registration of an FIR under section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, following which 11 hearings were scheduled.
The UP police registered the FIR on 2 May before the hearing scheduled on 9 May.
“The police became jittery and registered the FIR on 2 May,” said Trivedi.
When Article 14 asked the SHO of Maurava police station, Amar Nath Yadav, about the delay in filing the FIR, Yadav said he was not authorised to speak on the subject.
Crimes In UP
Of the 28,046 rapes recorded in India in 2021, down from 32,033 in 2020, as per the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB), Rajasthan (6,337) was on top of the list, followed by Madhya Pradesh (2,947), Maharashtra (2,496) and Uttar Pradesh (2,845).
The highest number of gang rapes and murders with rape was in Uttar Pradesh (48), followed by Assam (46), Madhya Pradesh (35) and Maharashtra (23).
The number of rape cases of girls under 18 was 1,452 in Rajasthan, 614 in Andhra Pradesh, 295 in Jharkhand, and 256 in Uttar Pradesh.
The number of child rape cases registered under POCSO was 3,512 in Madhya Pradesh, 3,458 in Maharashtra, 3,401 in Tamil Nadu, and 2,747 in Uttar Pradesh.
Of the 1,761 cases registered for committing crimes against scheduled castes, an increase of 18.6% over 2020, rape was 12.7% (233 cases).
Unnao has witnessed gruesome crimes against women.
Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a four-time MLA from Unnao for different parties, expelled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party after months of public outrage, was found guilty by a Delhi court in December 2019 of raping a 17-year-old in June 2017.
The relatives of the accused gouged out the eyes of a 23-year-old rape survivor in March 2017 in Unnao.
A rape survivor was set on fire by the accused in Unnao in December 2019. She died of a cardiac arrest while being treated for 90% burns.
The accused in the FIR registered at the Maurava police station on 2 May 2023 for the first time she was gang raped on 31 December 2021, included Roshan Lodhi, Sukhdin, Arun, Ranjit and Satish.
They were booked for gang rape, criminal intimidation under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, penetrative sexual assault under POCSO, and The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The accused in the FIR registered at the Murava police station on 17 April 2023 after the minor’s house was set on fire, included Roshan, Satish, Ranjit, Raj Bahadur, Chandan, Sukhdin, and Aman Dom. Roshan, Satish and Sukhdin. The accused include the minor’s paternal grandfather, Chandan and her uncle, Raj Bahadur.
They were booked for rioting, voluntarily causing hurt and mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy a house of the IPC.
The FIRs show that three men accused of raping her—Roshan, Satish, and Sukhdin—are accused of setting fire to her house.
Trivedi said the FIR for the second gang rape on 13 February 2022 was registered against unknown persons even though the minor had named the same five men against whom the FIR for the first gang rape was registered in May.
Two men, Satish and Arun, were arrested in the FIR for 13 February.
Satish was granted bail by an Unnao POCSO court on 31 December 2022, following which the minor’s family said they came under more pressure to withdraw the rape case.
The POCSO Act makes it difficult to get bail, said Trivedi
“When out on bail, the chances of the accused tampering with evidence are high,” Trivedi said. “Still, the accused got bail in this case. The victim and her family are vulnerable as the accused are their neighbours.”
In addition to failing to register the FIR for the first gang rape in over a year, Trivedi said the police had been unable to keep the minor and her family safe.
While police circle officer of Unnao, Santosh Kumar Singh, told Article 14 on 3 June that all seven men accused of setting the minor’s house on fire had been arrested, Trivedi said only four had been arrested, and three—Ranjit, Roshan and Aman Dom—were still free.
After they were released from the trauma centre in Lucknow on 28 May and returned home to Laad Kheda village, Trivedi said that on 3 June, the family was shifted to the Unnao district hospital, not because of a medical emergency, but due to the police failure to ensure their safety in their village.
“Two big hospitals in Lucknow have given them discharge certificates, but they are in Unnao district hospital because the police cannot catch the culprits. They have indirectly detained them in the name of doctors,” said Trivedi. “Is that legal?”
After The House Burning
A pair of small orange coloured flip-flops stood out from the pile of black shoes left at the door of the burn ward of the Ursula Horsman Memorial Hospital in Kanpur, with a part of the heel missing.
The small-built, emaciated and malnourished minor in an oversized blue kurta came out of the burn ward with her arm in a bandage, looking around as she put on her slippers, appearing oblivious to the scrum of the reporters.
When Article 14 asked her, “Are you from Unnao?” she turned to this reporter, expressionless, without answering.
On 19 April, the teenager left with her parents for the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, 100 km away, in a government ambulance.
The teenager’s family were at the government hospital in Kanpur for two days—April 18-19—when the two babies started suffering from seizures, S.P. Chaudhury, director of the Ursula Horsman Hospital, said.
Chaudhury said the victim’s family told him the two babies were thrown on the ground.
“We conducted tests and found both had fractures on their skulls, and treatment was possible only in Lucknow,” he said.
Both babies had their heads and torsos wrapped in bandages.
Scenes From The Hospital
As they collected their belongings in four cotton bags, the teenager‘s mother, 32, wearing a colourful red and yellow sari, tried to take two bedsheets from the hospital to Lucknow. The nurses were initially reluctant but eventually relented.
When I asked the minor’s father about what happened on the evening of 17 April 2023, the 40-year-old daily wage labourer raised his red shirt over his brown pants to show the scars on his torso.
Like their daughter, her parents looked undernourished with pale faces.
“They hit me with the blunt side of an axe. They attacked my wife and children. They set my house on fire,” the father said. “They had raped my daughter. They intimidated me to withdraw the police complaint, but I refused.”
The minor’s father said the villagers remained unmoved and did not help them.
The father said his daughter studied in class two but stopped after being raped. The school authorities recently contacted him as the new academic session began and enrolled her again, but she had not attended classes.
The other patients stared at them from a distance, watching them leave with the sub-inspector and constable who had accompanied them from Unnao to Kanpur.
The teenager’s mother started crying as she got into the ambulance.
A Poor Family
The teenager’s father, who works as a daily wager, commutes 100 km every day between Laad Kheda in Unnao and a construction site in Kanpur.
From his home, he walks 10 km to a big village and takes a shared taxi or bus to downtown Unnao where he boards a bus for Kanpur. On reaching Kanpur, he takes a shared auto taxi to the construction site where he works.
It takes around two hours and Rs 100 from his home to the construction site.
He spends the same time and money to reach home from the construction site
Of the Rs 400 he earns daily, Rs 200 is spent commuting.
Inside Laad Kheda Village
The monotony of the road from Unnao to Kanpur, with bare brown fields extending up to the horizon on both sides, is only broken by the few villages on the way.
Most houses where the Dalit family lives are built of bricks and cement with slanting thatched roofs over the verandah.
Most 65 families there are from the Dalit community. These families either own small pieces of agricultural land or work as farmhands. They also seek jobs as labourers at construction sites.
The teenager’s house, made of brick and cement, stands at the edge of the village near the vast fields where villagers grow wheat, rice and vegetables.
When Article 14 got there after seeing the minor and her parents at the hospital in Kanpur, their house was locked, and her seven siblings had been sent to their maternal grandmother’s house.
The house, made of bricks and cement, with a door but no windows, was black from the fire. Even though three days had passed, the smell of the burnt thatch that covered the verandah was still strong.
But two earthen jars used to store grain were intact.
Living Amid Hostility
It was a hot afternoon, and except for the three men who were idling near the charred remains of the teenager’s house, most people were inside their homes.
One of the men, Suresh Kumar Pasi, the father of Arun, who’s still in jail, quickly absolved the accused and vilified the teenager and her mother.
“No accused was present in the village when the incident took place. Somebody was attending a wedding, somebody had not returned from work; it was like that,” said Suresh Kumar, implying that the minor may have been raped, but it was not by his son, who was not present in the village that day.
“She’s not 14. She is much older. She rarely went to school,” he said. “Nobody is listening to us, neither the police nor the press.”
There was palpable hostility towards the Dalit family in the village.
A middle-aged woman in a sari, who joined the conversation, said that the teenager and her mother “would leave their home on foot and at some distance would hop on to somebody’s bike and leave”.
“As the victim has given birth to a baby, how can it be denied that she was not raped?” I asked the woman.
“Yes, it’s a fact,” she replied, lowering her eyes.
People passing by stopped to listen and participate in the conversation.
Another middle-aged woman with a bucket in her hand, who was going to fetch water from the hand pump, stopped and said, “Their character was not good. They would take things from hawkers and not pay them.”
With more people joining the conversation, Suresh Kumar said, “That’s why we want a DNA test to be conducted to confirm the real culprit. But the victim is against the DNA examination of her baby because she intends to extort money from all the accused to settle the case.”
Trivedi, the lawyer, said he opposed the DNA test because the victim was gang-raped. “The baby’s DNA will match with only one of the accused. The court will punish only him and release the others on the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “We want all the accused to get punishment.”
“It’s a total failure of the investigation and working of the police,” said Trivedi. “As the accused got bail, the police should have provided security to the victim and her family. They did not do so.”
The UP police had tasked two police constables to provide security to the family in the hospital in Kanpur and Lucknow.
“Now that they are back in Unnao, the victim’s parents are apprehending they may be attacked again, which seems imminent. I will seek police protection for them,” said Trivedi.
Circle officer Santosh Kumar Singh said the minor’s family would be provided security if there was a threat.
(Rohit Ghosh has been a journalist for 25 years and lives in Uttar Pradesh.)
Courtesy : Article 14
Note: This news piece was originally published in article14.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights