Editor's note: This is the first in a three part series of ground reports from Unnao and nearby villages. These articles will examine the culture of fear and repression that is pervasive in the region, and which is typified by the rape of the 17-year-old girl in June 2017.
Unnao: Like any other 17-year-old, she should have been hanging out with her friends sharing selfies and talking about the next movie they could watch in the nearest mall. But this 17-year-old dressed in an orange kurta and black churidar, face half-covered by a dupatta, finds herself caught in a maelstrom from which there is no escape.
She's so tired, she can barely speak. "My mouth is completely dry. I need to rest for a while. I have just lost my father and continue to be terrorised by how he was beaten to death by the vidhayak’s brother and his associates".
The 'vidhayak' she is referring to is Kuldeep Singh Sengar, the BJP MLA from Bangarmau located in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh. Sengar is a muscleman politician who has built his reputation on fear, finance and caste. His brothers operate as his 'hit men' and his younger brother Atul is known for exercising both muscle and money power.
Atul is said to have directed his supporters to thrash the girl’s father on 2 April. Her father was beaten so badly that when he was brought to the Unnao district hospital, he had eighteen abrasions on his body according to the hospital’s medical report.
This adolescent lies down on the double bed of a large, high ceiling room with peeling plaster. Her aunt is next to her. There are four uniformed police women sitting on chairs next to the bed. They're with the survivor 24x7. The survivor accused Sengar of raping her on 4 June, 2017. Which led to a series of events that culminated in the death of her father on 8 April, 2018.
Her traumatic story once again highlights the extent to which women and adolescents, especially girls, continue to be exploited by powerful sections of our society. She is given to fainting and her blood sugar levels are being constantly monitored.
Her ordeal began ten months ago. "I went to the vidhayak’s house along with my aunt. He raped me while she stood guard outside". The aunt she is referring to is Shashi Singh, wife of the army jawan Harpal Singh. Harpal was not in the village when this incident occurred.
The survivor further alleged that she was abducted by three village boys: Shubhan Singh, son of Shashi and Harpal Singh, his driver Naresh Tiwari and Brijesh Yadav. She said she would have been "sold" for a large amount of money but for the fact that her mother filed a complaint which was registered on 20 June, 2017.
Her mother is sitting in the next room of the guest house, along with her late husband’s brother and her aged and ailing mother-in-law. She's grief-stricken and completely shattered. "I cannot understand what is happening. I came to this village as a young bride two decades ago", she lamented. "I have four daughters and one four-year-old son. When my daughter went missing, I filed a complaint at the Makhi thana on 20 June, 2017".
The girl was recovered the next day and on the basis of her statement she gave on 22 June that she had been raped, all three boys: Shubham Singh, Naresh Tewari and Brijesh Yadav were arrested. The survivor alleges the police at the Makhi station refused to file an FIR against Sengar, who is feared in this area. She asked, "When they were scared to file an FIR, where is the question of them giving me a medical examination?"
Once Sengar and his brothers heard about her determination to file the FIR, they began to exert a great deal of pressure on the family. The youngest of the three brothers in the family had already shifted to Nangloi, Delhi, some years ago because he wanted to distance himself from this incestuous village politics.
"We had good relations with Sengar and his brothers. His house is opposite ours. Our daughters have studied in his school", said the survivor's late father's brother. In fact, the survivor's sisters continue to study in this intermediate college run from Sengar's property, in which two temples are also located. The college has buses parked inside the compound. Some air conditioners are also visible.
"The police began putting pressure on our family following these charges and so on 30 June, my niece shifted to Delhi to stay with us. My brother also moved out of the village", said the survivor's uncle. The survivor's grandmother, who fainted when she saw her son allegedly being beaten by Sengar's goons on 2 April said, "It was during Holi. My medicines had finished. I'd asked my son to bring them to Makhi. He also wanted to buy a bicycle for his son, who'd been asking for one".
The family, who are Rajputs, reacted strongly. The survivor and her mother went to Lucknow to attend the janata durbar of Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi. They also filed an application demanding a court investigation. On 22 August, 2017, Sengar received a copy of the girl's complaint which arrived to Unnao by post.
The arrival of the letter was the turning point. Relations between the two families further deteriorated. Once, the young folk of the family called Sengar 'Dadu'. The MLA would also refer to the survivor's grandmother as 'Amma' but all that was in the past. Sengar had projected himself as a strong Thakur (Rajput) leader in the region and managed to keep Thakur votes united in Unnao. He was in no mood to tolerate dissent.
The fact that the survivor's father printed posters depicting Sengar as a ten-headed Ravana and distributed them in Makhi only worsened relations between the families. Sengar wanted the FIR withdrawn and even told the family that he'd help 'arrange the girl's marriage' if they did. Unnao district jail superintendent AK Singh said the survivor's father was handed over to the police after he was allegedly beaten by four supporters of Sengar and some unidentified associates. The survivor's father was first taken to the district hospital and then sent to the jail next day around 7.30 pm.
On 5 April, the survivor's father complained of stomach ache and vomiting. The district hospital physician came to the jail on 6 April and gave him medicine. Her father was taken to district hospital on 7 April. Blood, urine and ultrasound tests were conducted. Everything was found normal and he was brought back to jail the same evening, Singh claimed.
"On 8 April, her father again complained of abdominal pain and vomiting. His blood pressure was also very low, so the jail doctor asked us to take him to the district hospital. He was admitted there around 8.45 pm but he died around 3.45 am on 9 April", Singh added.
The survivor and her mother left for Lucknow. There, she attempted to self-immolate outside Adityanath's residence. Her mother summed up the situation. "Look at the price my family is paying. We will never be able to return to Makhi. There is no man with us to protect us now", she said, sobbing softly.
She added, "If they wanted to punish us, they could have cut off an arm or even my husband's ears. I would have taken care of him for as long as he lived. But what did they do? They sent back his body. Now, I have the responsibility of these four girls and my young son. Who is going to share this burden with me?".
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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2018 11:47:32 IST