Panchayat orders ostracisation of Dalit rape survivor, family in Rajasthan's Churu; police term accusations 'false'

Jaipur: The family of a Dalit woman of the Sansi nomadic community, who was allegedly raped in the Bijarsar village in Churu district of Rajasthan late August, is facing ostracisation from the dominant caste groups of the village in an attempt to force her to withdraw the case against the accused.

The Bijarsar village panchayat ordered that the survivor’s family must be denied any work in the village, should not have access to essential commodities and imposed a fine of Rs 1,100 for anyone trying to help them.

 House of the Churu rape survivor. Image courtesy Madhav Sharma

House of the Churu rape survivor. Image courtesy Madhav Sharma

A video, where the panch of the village was seen threatening the survivor and her husband to withdraw the case or else face excommunication, has also surfaced.

Narrating the incident, the survivor, Santoshi Devi (name changed), 32, says her husband had gone to wash utensils at a funeral ceremony in the village on 27 August. “At 11 in the night, Naresh Potliya of our village raped me and threatened to kill if I told about it to anybody. When my husband returned home that night, I narrated the entire incident to him and we tried lodging an FIR at the Bhanipura police station next morning, but the police filed our FIR only on 29 August.”

Devi says the perpetrators then forced them to ‘compromise’ and when she didn’t agree, her family was socially boycotted by those from the dominant caste groups in the village. “The perpetrators haven’t been arrested even after two months. We are unable to get ration, medicines and other essential items in our village,” she says.

In a recent development, the police say they have filed a final report declaring the case as ‘false’, but a challan hasn’t been submitted to the court yet.

Devi’s husband, Phoolaram, 35, says they were pressurised to not lodge a police complaint after the rape, but persisting to do so led the village panchayat to stop their ‘hukka-pani’. “For the last two months, we have been unable to get ration, medicines or work in our village and are forced to find work in another village five km away. For five days (after the panchayat diktat), we couldn’t even get drinking water from the public tap, but later, they let us have it,” says Phoolaram. The only other Sansi family in the village is that of Phoolaram's brother’s, who died earlier this year. Both the families have been facing this boycott for the past few weeks.

No arrests, police claim ‘false case’

The Bijarsar village lies in Sardarshahar tehsil of Churu district. While the FIR filed at the Bhanipura police station on 29 August named the accused, Naresh Patoliya, of the Jat community of the same village, no arrests have been made by the police over the last two months. A medical examination of the rape survivor was conducted and her statement recorded by the judicial magistrate under section 164 of the CRPC.

Station house officer of Bhanipura PS Ragiw Royal says that the case was found to be false after investigation and hence, an FR has been filed in this case.

As the police haven’t submitted the challan to the court, the details of the final report are not public yet. The investigating officer, Bhanwar Lal, refuses to divulge any details of the investigation that led the police to conclude the case as deemed false. Royal, however, says the case involves false accusation because of a previous dispute between the two parties.

While Devi’s husband alleges that they are being constantly threatened by the ‘powerful’ in the village, Teraram Potliya, a former sarpanch of the neighbouring Ransisar gram panchayat, who is a native of Bijarsar and a current panch, says the family in question has been only stopped from begging for alms in the village and no social boycott has been imposed on them.

“Even after the survivor’s incriminating statement under Section 164, the accused hasn’t been arrested, rather the police have filed an FR in this case. I visited her village and saw that the survivor was socially boycotted when she refused to ‘compromise’,” says Suman Devathia of the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, who visited Bijarsar on 20 October.

"Attempts are being made to falsify the allegations of the survivor by producing witnesses to bolster the case of the accused. Devi and her family are running from pillar to post to seek justice while being forced to depend on the neighbouring village of Sadasar for food and other essentials," she says.

Who are the Sansis?

The Sansi community is included in the Scheduled Caste category in Rajasthan and it is one of the 32 nomadic tribes of the country. The exact numbers of this tribe are not known and the former president of the Rajasthan Nomadic Board, Gopal Kesawat, says many from this socially backward community skin dead animals or beg for alms to earn their livelihood.

Kesawat says during the era of kings, the Sansi and other nomadic tribes were trained as auxiliary fighting units when deemed necessary and were left to their own devices during peace times. The colonial government had notified the Sansis as a ‘criminal tribe’ because some sections of the tribe took up crime for survival. While they were notified after independence and brought into the ambit of reservations (though this happened only recently in 2008), police usually treat any case related to the Sansi with the traditional bias. The social stigma of being a criminal tribe has kept the Sansi community marginalised and ostracised.

The author is a Jaipur-based freelance writer and a part of 101Reporters' grassroots network.


Updated Date: Oct 23, 2018 14:02 PM

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