Revisiting Horrific Thanagazi Gang-Rape Incident Amid Rising Dalit Atrocities In Rajasthan
The infamous Thanagazi incident then resulted in nationwide outrage and had also drawn sharp criticism from the opposition BJP, which cornered the Congress government for the delay in timely action, just before the Lok Sabha 2019 polls.
“It has been more than four years since that ‘nightmare’ occurred. But whenever I get to hear an incident of sexual assault or gang rape, I relive my trauma. Being a victim of sexual abuse and a survivor too is not easy. My wounds are still ripe,” says a 23-year-old Dalit woman who was gang-raped in front of her husband by five men, and the sixth had allegedly made the video in April 2019. The accused later circulated the video on social media.
The victim who was 19-years-old then, while she was riding a bike with her husband, was stopped by a group of five men who assaulted, thrashed and paraded her naked in Thanagazi of Alwar district in Rajasthan. A year later, in 2020, a special court constituted for hearing the cases under SC and ST Act awarded life imprisonment to four men for gang-raping the 19-year-old Dalit woman. The fifth accused was convicted under the IT Act and imprisoned for up to five years. And sixth accused, who was a minor, is being tried separately.
Fours years on, the woman, who is now posted as a constable in the police lines in Jaipur, shares with Outlook, “I may have moved on in my life with a new job and am lucky to have a supportive family. The accused were given life imprisonment by the court, but it’s not enough! Whenever such an incident takes place, I get furious. And there are times when I get to know that the video footage of that horrific assault is being circulated, it leaves me in pain and anger.”
She calls the Manipur incident a brutal reminder of the ordeal she went through.
Footage of the assault was later released on social media as part of an alleged extortion attempt, where the accused had threatened the family and demanded money for not circulating the video. Later during the investigation, the police also booked a channel on the video portal YouTube for hosting the footage.
The infamous Thanagazi incident then resulted in nationwide outrage and had also drawn sharp criticism from the opposition BJP, which cornered the Congress government for the delay in timely action, just before the Lok Sabha 2019 polls. PM Narendra Modi and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati had raised the issue at poll rallies. After the stir, the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi, accompanied by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot, visited the victim and her family and assured a job and compensation.
The victim’s husband had then told the media that the local police station in Thanagazi in Alwar had refused to lodge a complaint and police had asked them to wait until the polling ended in Alwar. An FIR was lodged on May 6, 2019, and the arrests were made on May 7, after Alwar went to the polls. Alwar was among 12 seats in Rajasthan that went to polls on May 6, 2019.
The government in its action, lodged an FIR against the station house officer (SHO) of Thanagazi Sardar Singh police station under the SC/ST Act, removed Rajeev Pachar as the SP, suspended Thanagazi SHO and removed six staff of the police station.
“The police took seven days to lodge a complaint. It was during these seven days that the accused threatened the family and circulated the video. The untimely action of the police highlights how the machinery is insensitive towards women’s atrocities and the atrocities of SC and ST communities. The police reforms are needed which should focus on empathy and sensitivity of such cases”, Tara Chand Verma, Rajasthan-based Dalit rights activist, shared with Outlook.
Details of FIR
The court has sentenced four of the accused -Hansraj Gurjar (20), Chotelal Gurjar (22), Ashok Gurjar (20) and Indraj Gurjar (22)- to life imprisonment till the end of their natural life while another accused, Mukesh (28), who filmed and circulated the video, was charged under different sections of the IT Act for circulating the video.
As per the charge sheet filed by cops on May 18, 2019, two weeks after the FIR, the accused were charged under sections of the SC and ST Act and several sections of IPC, such as 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 327 (Voluntarily causing hurt to extort property, or to constrain to an illegal act), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354B (outraging the modesty of a woman), 365 (Kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person), 376D (gang rape), 384 (extortion), 395 (dacoity) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Police reform in Rajasthan
It was after this case that the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government announced that the FIRs could be lodged in the offices of superintendents of police (SP) if the local police stations did not register them. The CM then also announced, that a woman nodal officer of Deputy SP rank at the district level will be appointed to deal with the cases related to atrocities on SC/STs.
CM Gehlot, who also holds the portfolio of the home department, had also announced that the deputy superintendent of police (DySP) in every district would monitor cases related to violence against women. The incident also led to dividing Alwar into two districts for policing.
Activists point towards insensitivity
Satish Kumar of the Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), a non-governmental organisation based in Jaipur, tells Outlook, “According to the rule 16 of the ST/SC Act, there should be a mandatory state-level monitoring and vigilance committee, chaired by the sitting Chief Minister. In Rajasthan, the committee formed in 2019 is yet to have its first meeting. It states that the priority of Dalits and Tribals are least in the eyes of government.”
Speaking about the rehabilitation policy, Verma added, “After policing, what is important is monitoring and rehabilitation of the victim. The government in such cases announce Rs 3 lakh compensation but it takes years to reach that money to the victim.”
The NCRB report showed that Rajasthan ranked second after Uttar Pradesh in overall crimes against women in 2021 and reported the highest number of rape cases in the country at 6,337. This marked an annual increase of 19.34 per cent as 5,310 cases were reported in 2020.
A total of 4,28,278 cases of crimes against women were registered across the country in the year 2021, according to NCRB. Uttar Pradesh topped with 56,083 cases, followed by Rajasthan where 40,738 cases were registered. Out of 31,677 rape cases registered in the country, as many as 6,337 were in Rajasthan, while Uttar Pradesh reported 2,845.
The latest available Rajasthan police data reveals a 7.23 per cent increase in atrocities against Dalits in 2021 as compared to 2020. The data shows that atrocities against Dalits have increased steadily since 2018. In 2019, the state capital Jaipur was the worst among 19 metropolitan cities nationwide, reporting the highest percentage share of crimes committed against Dalits at 20 per cent. In 2018, Jaipur’s percentage share was 13.4 per cent and in 2017 it was 6 per cent.
Courtesy : Outlook India
Note: This news piece was originally published in outlookindia.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights