BJP's secretive suspension of Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2018 betrays party's shocking approach to Unnao rape case

Unnao Rape case: The girl had accused Kuldeep Singh Sengar of sexually assaulting her in 2017 on the pretext of giving her a job and even threatening her family to withdraw the case. The woman’s uncle has accused Sengar of orchestrating the accident with the help of the truck owner which has led to Opposition parties and common citizens demanding Sengar’s expulsion from BJP.

Akash Bisht July 31, 2019 11:19:05 IST
BJP's secretive suspension of Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2018 betrays party's shocking approach to Unnao rape case

On 28 July 2019, the Unnao rape survivor, her two aunts and a lawyer were travelling from Unnao to Rae Bareli on Sunday when a truck rammed into their car. While the victim and her lawyer are both critical and battling for their lives at Saint George’s Medical College in Lucknow, both her aunts died in the accident. The victim’s family and opposition parties have accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of masterminding the accident to derail the ongoing investigation in the case.

The girl had accused Sengar of sexually assaulting her in 2017 on the pretext of giving her a job and even threatening her family to withdraw the case. The woman’s uncle has accused Sengar of orchestrating the accident with the help of the truck owner which has led to Opposition parties and common citizens demanding Sengar’s expulsion from BJP.

BJPs secretive suspension of Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2018 betrays partys shocking approach to Unnao rape case

File image of rape accused MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar being taken from the CBI court in Lucknow. PTI

Under attack from Opposition parties over Sengar still being a member of the party, the state BJP leadership made a bizarre revelation on Tuesday.

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.

Seeking clarification on Tripathi’s statement, this reporter contacted Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesperson Harishchandra Srivastava who said that he was not aware of the finer details but pointed at Singh’s statement about Sengar’s suspension. “I am not aware of what Tripathi said about the press release but our state president has made it clear that Sengar was suspended earlier. I would like to reiterate that Sengar was suspended earlier,” he claimed.

However, news reports from 2018 reveal that no such update was ever provided to the media. On the contrary, in July 2018, the then BJP state president Mahendra Nath Pandey claimed that action would only be taken against Sengar if he was found guilty. While BJP failed to issue a press release on Sengar’s suspension, the state government’s decision to withdraw Sengar's Y-category security was widely reported by the media.

Under pressure, the newly-elected BJP state president seems to have jumped the gun over Sengar’s suspension and has failed to provide any proof about such a decision.

"The BJP should answer what took them so long to reveal that Sengar was suspended from the party. Why didn’t they issue a press release and why did they make that claim today and not yesterday or the day before?" asked Samajwadi Party leader Udaiveer.

Why hasn't the BJP expelled Sengar for his 'heinous deeds', wondered the Samajwadi Party leader. "Her entire family has been wiped out and there is not a word from the government. On the contrary, BJP MPs are visiting Sengar in jail and thanking him for his support," said Udaiveer. After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj even visited Sengar in jail to thank him.

Udaiveer also raised doubts over the way top police officials "prime facie called it an accident and not a conspiracy". According to him, police officials should have first looked at all the evidence before reaching a conclusion. “If the top police officials held a press conference and called it an accident, will the junior staff investigate?” he asked.

Responding to these allegations, a senior Uttar Pradesh Police official, requesting anonymity, said that it will be wrong to blame the state police. "We have constituted a Special Investigating Team to investigate the incident while an FIR has been filed against Sengar, his brother and nine others in connection with the incident. We have also sent a formal request to the central government to allow the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the incident. What else do you expect us to do?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Sudheendra Bhadoria of the Bahujan Samaj Party also raised questions about the timing of the news about Sengar's expulsion. "They suspended him so secretly and thought that once they announce it, no one will raise questions," he said. "They no longer care about the people because of the mandate they got. Everyone knows the kind of man Sengar is considering how the girl’s family has been threatened. There has been a serious attempt to malign the victim ever since she spoke out. Her father was also killed and now her aunts are dead. No one should go through what she has been through," Bhadoria added.

According to him, rapes, murders, lynchings and atrocities on Dalits have become a daily affair in Yogi Adityanath's Uttar Pradesh. "If anyone questions this, they are labelled anti-nationals. Let them call us as anti-nationals but that would not deter us from raising these issues," Bhadoria said.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that the BJP and its leaders have shot themselves in the foot over their attempts to give clean chit to Sengar.

Soon after the victim accused Sengar of raping her in 2018, BJP Bairia legislator Surendra Singh spoke in favour of Sengar and told ANI, "I am speaking from a psychological point of view, no one can rape a mother of three children. It is not possible, this is a conspiracy against him (Kuldeep Sengar). Yes, maybe her father was thrashed by some people but I refuse to believe rape charges."

Making matters worse for the state BJP, a report in The Economic Times claimed that the party did not expel Sengar, as it did recently with MLA Kunwar Pranav Singh 'Champion' of Uttarakhand who was expelled from the BJP's primary membership for six years after he was initially suspended indefinitely.

According to the report, Sengar is still part of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Committee of Government Assurances (No 12) as in 2018 and listed as BJP member (No 48) in Assembly as on 5 June this year.

In fact, when the girl and her family filed a complaint, the police did not mention Sengar as an accused. Back then, the family had alleged that the police had not paid heed to their request of naming the BJP MLA in the FIR. Well aware that the police would not act against Sengar, the victim wrote to Adityanath and senior police officials on several occasions but received no response.

With no one responding to her letters, the victim approached the chief judicial magistrate to name Sengar in the FIR in February 2018. Two months later, when the family visited Unnao for a hearing, Sengar’s brother Atul Sengar assaulted the victim’s father on 3 April 2018.

A day later, the police arrested the girl’s father for possession of illegal firearms. A few days later, the mother-daughter duo tried to kill themselves by attempting self-immolation outside the chief minister's residence. Just three days after the incident, the family was informed that the victim’s father has succumbed to the injuries and the same day Sengar was seen entering Adityanath's house.

Sengar remained unapologetic despite these developments and on 10 April when he was asked about the allegations against him, he dubbed the victim’s family 'people of lower caste' and called the allegations as a conspiracy against him.

"BJP calls itself a party with a difference but the truth is that it is a party that is always trying to twist facts. Why didn’t they issue a press release when Sengar was suspended? I doubt that they ever suspended him and it is just to save face. They issued a press release for small issues and forgot to do it for such an important issue," said Communist Party of India leader Atul Anjaan.

“The sad part is how that girl has lost her entire family within a year and will now remain incapacitated for a long time. What was her fault? Is it that she dared to speak against a BJP leader? Is this what BJP’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign all about?” Anjaan asked.

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