Bhatta-Parsaul, Uttar Pradesh: It was from here that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi gave the battle-cry for mission ‘reclaim Uttar Pradesh’ (UP) earlier this year. The two villages of Bhatta-Parsaul – in Western UP’s Gautam Budh Nagar district that witnessed a violent police crackdown of a farmer agitation against Chief Minister Mayawati’s land acquisition policy – looks set to remain the centre of political storm in the run up to the polls scheduled for early next year.
The police action against farmers on 7 May 2011 that left four people dead, including two policemen, caused a stir following allegations of rape – first denied and then confirmed by women from the villages – against police forces on the night of 7 May. The rape allegations were first made by Rahul Gandhi, after he spoke to the villagers having managed to sneak into Bhatta-Parsaul on a bike, slipping through the tight security that had been deployed in the area to keep out the media and politicians in the days that followed the police firing.
Last week, on 4 October, the National Commission of Scheduled Castes (NCSC) issued an arrest warrant against the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) of Gautam Budh Nagar, Jyoti Narayan, for failing to appear before it on four successive dates to explain why no FIR had been lodged by the police to investigate the rape charges. He is to be presented on 25 October before the Commission.
In August, seven women from the village of Bhatta submitted affidavits to the Commission alleging that they had been raped by the police forces on the night of 7 May.
Explaining its jurisdiction in the matter, a Commission official, Jagdish said, “The Commission also has powers regarding grievances of OBCs. The women mostly belong to the OBCs.”
On why the SSP is being summoned, the official said, “On receiving the affidavits, the Commission sent an order to the police that the FIRs be lodged. They responded by saying that the case had now been to transferred to CB CID (Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department). The Commission wants to know what the CB CID is investigating when cases haven’t been registered by the police in the first place.”
When asked why no FIR had been lodged, SSP Jyoti Narayan, speaking to Firstpost said, “The SC/ST Commission sent us affidavits of seven ladies. Six of them alleged that police personnel, on the night of 7 May, came inside their house, misbehaved with them and raped them. The affidavits have been transferred to the CB CID for verification and further legal action.”
He added that prior to receiving affidavits by the Commission, he had received neither verbal nor written complaints of rape committed on the night of 7 May.
“After I received the affidavits, I sent a lady officer to the village. The ladies said they would not discuss the case with the local police,” said Jyoti Narayan who took over as SSP of Gautam Budh Nagar one week after the police firing incident at Bhatta-Parsaul.
On an arrest warrant being issued against him, the SSP said, “I have always obeyed the orders of SC/ST commission. As far as the warrant is concerned, I have no official communication and I am waiting for the order.” The Commission’s letter to the arrest of the SSP is addressed to DGP (Director General Of Police) Brij Lal.
Firstpost travelled to the village of Bhatta to speak to the women who have alleged rape by the police personnel. Unwilling to speak in the presence of male members of the family, when asked privately, the three women who shared their story broke down.
“On the night of the police firing, the men fled the village. They went into hiding for fear of being arrested. Only women and children, and the elderly remained here. My two kids and I were in the room upstairs. About 15-20 policemen entered house and ransacked it. One of them came upstairs. I was hiding behind the door. He threatened to kill me and then he misbehaved with me,” said a young mother of two children, aged five and three.
The police action on 7 May, has created a survival crisis in some homes in the village. “All the four men in our house have been put in jail. We have no food, no money,” said an elderly woman. “On that night, the police entered our house, trashed our things. Two of them dragged the women inside, while two men stayed outside,” she added pointing to the two women seated in front of her. One of them said, “We begged them with folded hands to spare us."
Some of the women allege they are under pressure to withdraw their affidavits and that they have been questioned by the police about the veracity of their claims.
According to the NCSC, women have submitted written complaints stating that were threatened by the police after they had submitted the affidavits.
On Friday (14 October), the chief minister is scheduled to visit the district to inaugurate the Ambdekar Park. She is also expected to visit the Gautam Budh University, two colleges and a specialty hospital. While Bhatta-Parsaul may not figure in her itinerary, there is no doubt that it is and will continue to be on her agenda.