Over two years ago on 7 June, 2017, a minor girl from Unnao accused former BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his aides of gang-raping her. Two years later, when the courts have started hearing the case, the survivor is battling for her life in a hospital and has lost her father and two aunts while trying to get justice. According to reports, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is yet to record a statement of Unnao rape survivor in connection with the accident case which left her critically injured. The CBI had approached the doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to record the statement of the rape survivor but doctors told the officials that she is still not medically fit to record any statement.
Starting from Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, the girl had urged state police and judiciary to protect her family from Sengar, a man infamous for using state apparatus to intimidate victims and other illegal activities making him one of the most feared men in Unnao. Despite several allegations by the local media and the family of the survivor that the state ruling party (Bharatiya Janata Party) and the police are complicit in the crime and all pleas fell on deaf ears.
Only a fatal accident brought the case back into the spotlight. The Unnao rape survivor, along with her two aunts and her lawyer, was travelling on 28 July when a truck rammed into the car on a highway near Raebareli. The aunts died in the accident while the rape survivor and lawyer suffered serious injuries. They are being treated in AIIMS, Delhi.
The accident led the Supreme Court to take cognisance of a letter the survivor had previously written to the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asking for protection from Sengar and his men. Meanwhile, the CBI, which has been investigating the case after outrage over shoddy investigations forced the Uttar Pradesh Police to hand over investigations to the Central agency, told the Tis Hazari Court in Delhi that they believe that the allegations of rape levelled against Sengar and his men were true.
The court framed rape charges against Sengar under IPC Sections 120 b (criminal conspiracy), 363 (kidnapping), 366 (kidnapping or inducing a woman to compel for marriage), 376 (rape) and sections 3 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The court's decision and CBI's statement have come as an intermittent victory for the survivor and her family. But everyone is not happy.
Speaking to the reporter from Unnao, Sengar's wife, Sangeeta Sengar, denied CBI charges and claimed the allegations were part of a larger conspiracy to destroy Sengar's flourishing political career. "Even the rape allegations are false but no one wants to hear our side of the story. My husband has been framed but I am confident he will come out clean. They don't have any evidence against him," she claimed. Further, she accused the victim and her family of using the media to build a narrative against Sengar. "I have nothing else to add. God knows that my husband was not involved in any of this. We will talk once he walks out free."
Such is Sengar's clout in the region that the locals, including his political adversaries, hold him in high regard. A local Samajwadi Party leader maintained how Sengar was framed by the victim's family. "It would have been consensual but he certainly didn't rape her. If he did what she says he did, why did the family take one year to file a complaint against him? It was only after he won the elections, they targeted him," he said requesting anonymity.
He further went on to add that though they are political adversaries now, he will never believe the allegations levelled by the victim's family. "They had some dispute after which the girl's family decided to accuse Sengar of raping her. As far as the father's death and the accident are concerned, it was just bad coincidence. In fact, Sengar kept telling them to settle the case but the victim didn't want a closure which proves that she had some sinister agenda."
He pointed out that if the number plate on the truck was not painted black, it would have passed off as any other accident. "There is no reason why Sengar would use a local truck for this. If he wanted to, he would have hired a truck from Delhi or Gurgaon (now Gurugram). I sympathise with the victim but I don't think Sengar was involved in any of this," he said.
But the family of the girl does not buy this argument. Was it also a coincidence that the truck belonged to another influential family from Sengar's district who had painted the number plates black to avoid financers? The survivor's mother was quick to blame Sengar of orchestrating the accident from the jail where he is currently lodged. Interestingly, the owner of the truck is the brother of a Samajwadi Party leader. Sengar was a SP member before joining the BJP. The case was back in the spotlight.
The last time her case received focused media attention was when her father died in police custody. The police had arrested the critically injured man for possessing an illegal firearm, Interestingly, the police did not detain Sengar's brother, Atul Sengar, even for basic questioning. Despite statements from the girl's family members and a video of the victim naming Atul as one of the assailants, the police filed an FIR and charged five men for assault which did not include Sengar's brother.
According to reports, CBI has even found witnesses who have claimed that the victim's father did not possess any gun when he was taken to Maakhi Police Station. However, he was later sent to jail. The family protested and claimed that he would be killed in jail but their pleas were completely ignored.
For the next five days, the police and doctors exchanged letters about his need for better medical treatment while he suffered in jail. Doctors, reportedly, asked the police to shift the victim to the hospital for better treatment which they claimed could not have been possible in jail premises. On 7 April, 2018, he breathed his last in the police custody. Following the father's death, the girl attempted to commit suicide by setting herself ablaze outside Adityanath’s residence in Lucknow alleging that Sengar had raped her in the June of 2017 (when she was 17) and threatened her when she lodged an FIR. In response to the survivor's complaint, Senger had pleaded innocent, saying that it was a “planned incident” and that the survivor’s family was trying to “defame him”.
Over a year after investigating the case, the CBI told the court that Sengar framed the victim's father with the help of these three state police officials and five others.
Sengar, who controls the sand mining business in and around Unnao is known for silencing his opponents and this wasn't the first time. In 2004, Sengar's brother pumped four bullets in the chest and abdomen of a DIG rank IPS officer, Ram Lal Verma, who reportedly raided Sengar's illegal mines. Verma miraculously survived but Sengar, using his political influence, managed to get the case diary to disappear from the police station which weakened the case. As a result, the trial in this 15-year-old case has not even begun. After witnessing the progress in the rape case, Verma decided to speak up as well to seek justice.
Speaking to NDTV, Verma said that he was lucky to survive but confirmed that Sengar, his brother and others were involved in the shooting. "To know the status of my case, I had to file an RTI. Despite my being an IPS officer, what happened with me was unfortunate. I was almost killed on duty while the trial has not even begun."
Meanwhile, the rape survivor's father's death led to a furore and the Adityanath government was hauled up for letting Sengar act with such impunity especially when the chief minister has often claimed the state to be a model for other states when it comes to law and order situation. Questions were raised as to why the police were not forthcoming in dealing with the Sengars. The answer lies in Sengar's political clout in Unnao and surrounding regions.
"He is a four-time MLA and had stakes in mining and transport business," said Devendra Singh, who had once contested a local election against Sengar. "What makes him so powerful is that he is involved in a lot of illegal activities. People might say that he is being framed but the CBI has in its initial investigation revealed that the victim's allegations are true. Who are we to say anything if the country's premier agency claims that he did commit the heinous crime," said Singh, who is also a relative of the survivor's lawyer, who too, is in critical condition and is being treated at AIIMS.
Singh went on to add that Unnao and Kathua rape cases were reported around the same time but there was a stark difference in the legal developments in the case. "The trial had begun now in the Unnao case in comparison to the Kathua rape case. This tells you how BJP tried to protect one of its own for such a long period," Singh claimed. He also pointed out how the local police did not act against Sengar even after his name was included in the FIR.
It came as no surprise when BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj went to jail to meet and thank Sengar for all his help during the 2019 election campaign. Beginning his political journey in the 1990s with the Congress, he shifted to the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2002 helping the party win the Unnao sadar seat for the very first time. By 2007, Sengar had joined the Samajwadi Party and won the Bangarmau seat and Bhagwant Nagar seat in 2012. It is rare for any politician to win three different seats in three elections but Sengar did, which made him an asset for any political party. Later, he moved to the BJP in 2017 and won the Bangarmau seat again.
Despite his tainted past, the BJP not only included Sengar in its ranks, the party also gave him the benefit of doubt in a rape case. The latest being Bilgram-Mallanwan MLA who, while addressing a gathering in Unnao, claimed how "Sengarji" was facing bad times and that his best wishes are with him.
In fact, it took the ruling party over a year to finally suspend Sengar, which also betrayed party's shocking approach to the Unnao rape case. Under attack from Opposition parties over Sengar still being a member of the party, the state BJP leadership made a bizarre revelation in July 2019.
BJP state president and state transport minister Swatantra Dev Singh claimed that Sengar had already been suspended from the party. "Kuldeep Singh has already been suspended. The former party president will confirm it too. BJP will never side with a criminal and for a fair investigation, we have handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation," Singh told ANI. Mounting pressure from the victim's family and opposition parties seems to have forced Singh to issue a statement which cannot be corroborated by any media report.
According to a News18 report, when asked about Sengar’s suspension, party spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi claimed that the MLA was suspended after an inquiry by the party's disciplinary committee. "We had not issued any press release then, but I am officially stating this now when you have asked me," Tripathi told News18.
Meanwhile, Sengar's supporters believe that his political career is far from over and that he will return to BJP and active politics in the next few days.
Updated Date: Aug 23, 2019 08:42:12 IST