So who killed the two teenage girls in Badaun? Apparently, no one.
Six months after the girls — one 14 and the other 15-years-old — were found hanging from a tree and the picture of their hanging corpses sent the internet convulsing in shock, the Central Bureau of Investigation has concluded that the girls had committed suicide. They have also declared that they were not raped, rather, one of them was in a consensual sexual relationship with one of the accused, Pappu Yadav.
Reports in The Indian Express and The Times of India, say that the older girl was in an 'intimate' relationship of a physical nature with Pappu Yadav. A conversation, recorded on one of the girls' mobile phones, between Yadav and the younger girl proved that.
The CBI also said that the family accessed the said recording and played it in front of 15 people from the entire village, following which, presumably, the girls committed suicide. The CBI has relied heavily on the accounts of an uncle of the girls called Nazru, who had said that he had ran into the girls meeting Pappu Yadav the evening they disappeared. The reports state that the younger girl had asked for Rs 200 from Yadav to go to a local fair.
When the cousins met Yadav, the younger girl was supposed to keep watch while the other two engaged in a sexual act. That's when Nazru stumbled upon them.
The CBI also trashed the earlier post mortem report which confirmed that the girls were raped. They failed to exhume the bodies of the girls but re-examined the video of the earlier autopsy and declared the findings faulty. They said that the blood around one of the girls' vagina was due to menstruation, not rape and the discoloration around the other's genitals was normal after death. They also cited the absence of any sign of struggle for trashing the rape allegation.
The girls died on 28 May this year and it took the local police, then a SIT and finally the CBI a whole six months to even ascertain what happened. The process of punishing the guilty — in this case the girls' families for obfuscating evidence say reports — will only begin after this. Even if we are to believe that the girls committed suicide, one thing shouldn't be forgotten — the fact that no one else physically took their lives doesn't make them any less a victim. It is clear, even from the CBI's version of the story, that the girls were forced to take their lives following public shaming. Or perhaps the fear of social stigma compelled them to take the extreme step. It is perhaps important here to remind ourselves that they were just 14 and 15 years old, precisely of an age in which girls from more privileged class are perhaps not made to take their own lives for exploring their sexuality, if that's what one of the teenage girls were doing.
If the IE and TOI reports are to be believed, the investigation agencies are yet to come up with charges and as of now have not hinted at abetment to suicide as a possible charge being slapped on anyone. Furthermore, the case and its shocking twists reiterate the fact that justice is not something easily acquired in this country. As this Badaun case reveals, the agencies responsible for delivering justice are not only dreadfully slow, they are also dreadfully erroneous. While an autopsy done by the local police confirmed rape, the CBI completely overturned its conclusion, thereby suggesting that the local authorities were incapable of ascertaining whether or not sexual assault had taken place.
Considering that physical evidence is usually considered rather conclusive is cases of sexual assault, how exactly did the local forensic team trip on the fact? There's no answer to that yet.
In fact, the CBI pointed out that the blood around one of the girl's genitals was menstrual blood and not from a vaginal tear caused due to rape. The fact that a professional forensic team in Uttar Pradesh couldn't even distinguish between the two kinds of blood is mindboggling to say the least.
Then again the CBI has reconstructed the entire episode based on the accounts of '200 people', says the IE report, and has possibly considered the same as evidence of the fact that the earlier train of investigation was incorrect. However, the earlier reports had said that the three accused had 'confessed' to raping the girls. The new CBI report says that they passed the lie detector tests. The question this information necessitates is why did the accused then say that they had raped the girls in the past, knowing well what kind of legal reprimand awaited them?
In that case, were the alleged accused then forced to release a statement by the police? Was blackmail or physical torture used to make the accused admit to a crime, with apparently, they have not committed?
CBI chief Ranjit Sinha has now blamed the local police for a faulty probe. The reason why the Badaun deaths even merited a CBI probe in a country where 93 women are reportedly raped every day is the horrifying spectacle that it shook the world with. Add to that a newly elected government at the Centre at odds with the government at the state, making the case less about a gruesome death, more about a great political possibility. The double deaths in Badaun, therefore, was put on a track of justice by several extraneous factors - not the tragedy of the deaths of two young girls by itself. It makes one wonder about the kind of course the law will take in cases which aren't under constant media glare like the Badaun case was.
In a country where sexual violence is a pressing, every day reality, the conflict between the probe agencies and the slips in investigation is an appalling reminder about how ill-equipped India is when it comes to quickly resolving cases such as these. While it is most likely that a woman in India faces sexual violence, it is highly unlikely that she will get a quick, efficient response from the government following the same.
The Badaun girls, in their death, have sent out a chilling reminder to the country, especially its women: in India, you're on your own. Because at most times, you cannot afford the law.
Updated Date: Nov 29, 2014 10:08 AM