A team of leaders and activists of AIPWA and AISA visited Haryana on 12-13 October, to investigate the alarming spate of rape cases in the state. The team comprised of AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, JNU Students’ Union Councillor Anubhuti Bara, and AISA activists from Delhi University, Prerna and Saurabh Naruka. The team was accompanied by Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat, in-charge of the CPI(ML) for Haryana.
Findings and observations of the team are as follows:
Reshma (name changed), aged 16 years, belonging to Dalit community (Chamar) was gangraped by 8 persons on September 9, 2012 near Dabra village in Hisar district.
Rape and Resistance – A Survivor’s Account
“On September 9, I was on the way to my grandmother’s (and maternal uncle’s) home in Hisar town, around 3 pm, when I was dragged into a car in which there were 8 men, and taken to a deserted place near a tube-well. They made phone calls after which four more arrived on bikes. They (12 in all) all raped me, and filmed the act. They also threatened me that they would kill me and attack my family if I said anything. They forced me to swallow a pill, after which I became drowsy. When I came to, I came to the main road, hitched a lift on a passing bike and returned home.
I said nothing for nearly 10 days. My mother and I went to stay at my grandmother’s place on 11th. On 18th, my father came there and my parents both began asking me what the matter was. They had noticed that I was silent and depressed. Eventually I broke down and told them. My father then wanted to take me to the thana to file a complaint, but for some reason – hesitation or some pressure, I don’t know why – did not do that.
He left the house and went with my mother to the house of Randeep Surjewala’s mother-in-law (Surjewala is a Congress MLA and Industries Minister in the Haryana Govt), where he (my father) worked as a gardener. I heard that her security guard (associated with Punjab Police) showed my father the video of my rape. My father then sent my mother back to my grandmother’s home. And he then took poison and committed suicide.
On the same day, we went and filed an FIR. Dalit leaders with the help of villagers held a candle light protest, demanding action by the police. We said that we will hold a dharna and refuse to accept my father’s body for last rites, till the police arrests the accused. The dharna began on 19th. One of the accused is the nephew of the former MLA (elected from INLD), Puran Singh, who stays in the same village. Eventually we called off the dharna on 23rd, after the police made the first arrest.
I was shown photographs, and I made a positive identification of one of the rapists, and was unsure about another. But the police took the latter into remand, and beat that poor chap up badly, but did not take the one I had positively identified, into remand, though they did keep him in custody. Now, however, 8 of the accused have been arrested. The Test Identification Parade has not yet taken place, so I cannot say whether these 8 are indeed the culprits.
Since most of the accused are from the Jat community, the Sarpanch and other influential Jats in the village are protecting them. They even tried, through someone, to try to offer me Rs 2 crore to withdraw the case.
The accused live in the same village, in the area where the Jats live. Many of the accused have a criminal background. One of them is accused of killing a Jay boy, and a Chamar (Dalit) boy. Other rapes have occurred, many of them with Dalit girls, at the same spot. But Dalits work under Jats, and so are scared or reluctant to speak out.
The family of the Chamar boy who was brutally murdered have come forward to help us.
Where Jats are accused of rape, there are many powerful people to protect them. When Dalits rape someone from the Jat community, the entire Dalit community would be attacked. In our own village, a Dalit youth who fell in love with a Jat girl was killed. The girl was told to invite him home since her family had agreed to the marriage; they packed the girl off somewhere and killed the Dalit youth.
Sonia Gandhi came to Haryana to visit the family of a rape victim. The media kept asking me that day – why didn’t she come here? How can I answer that – would she phone me to let me know the reason?! The fact is that she won’t come here for fear of antagonising the Jat vote for the Congress.
The Government has promised my brother a job – but they are offering him a job that is not permanent.
I would like to go to school – but I feel I can’t go to the same school. I guess I will join a school that is further away.
Pushpa Barad and her daughter Sunita Barad (Reshma’s neighbours), told us that there are only three lanes in the village where Chamars live. There are about 500 Jat households, and 300 Dalit households(including Chamar, Dhanak and other Dalit communities.)
So the Chamars and other Dalits feel very vulnerable. Since the gang-rape, Sunita said she has stopped attending the training classes (towards a job) that she had enrolled for. The reason is that her brother was threatened by Jat men that his sister would not be safe as long as Reshma persisted in her case. Other Dalit girls too are scared to go to school.
There is a 24-hour police watch around Reshma’s house – but the rest of the Dalit community also seek police protection.
Pushpa told us that the former MLA Puran Singh family is quite influential locally, and the daughter of OmPrakash Chautala has also been married in their family.
Local Congress MLA Ram Niwas visited the victim family but showed his helplessness when he said that he can’t do much as he is still only ‘under training’!
Arrests of the Accused
Baljit, one of the accused, was arrested on September 23. We were told that this arrest took place when a girl student from the Jat community spotted him on a bus and tipped off the police. The police too confirmed this.
Several others among the accused were picked up from Ranikhet, Uttarakhand. The 8 now arrested have been apprehended with the help of villagers, some of them Jats.
The Sarpanch of the village is Mayawati Kaliravana, a woman, but her husband Inder is the one who goes by the title of Sarpanch. She (Mayawati) says she visited the rape survivor, but Inder admitted that while he had met her relatives, he had not actually met the survivor.
Inder denied that any help or protection was being given to the accused. He said that the accused were criminals, and had misbehaved with Jat girls just as well.
Involvement of Non-Jat Accused
Not all the accused in the case are from the Jat community. Many we spoke to suggested that the rape survivor had gone to the spot of the rape, of her own accord, with a man on a two-wheeler. This man, they said, is from the ‘Chhippi’ (tailor) community and is married and has children. The Sarpanch’s husband Inder said this man has a mobile phone shop, and helped make the MMS.
We must stress, though, that none we spoke to denied that the gang-rape occurred or that the Jat boys were responsible for the gang-rape.
The SP, however, said that this man from the Chippi community was a chemist, and had given the girl a contraceptive pill. When he and the girl emerged from the shack at the tube-well, they were surrounded by the Jat boys who had spotted them, roughed up the girl’s companion and raped her. According to the police, the accused had taken photographs of the girl at the time of the incident, but had not made or circulated an MMS. These photographs, though deleted from the phones of the accused, had been recovered through technology. They showed the girl weeping, and the faces of several of the accused, and were therefore valuable evidence. The man from the Chippi community too has been arrested.
Was this, then, a caste crime?
The police seem to believe, based on the above version, that the gang-rape was of an opportunist rather than a pre-planned nature. Therefore, they seem to assume that the gang-rape should not be seen as a crime against Dalits.
It is true that a girl of any other community in the same situation, too might be vulnerable to rape. But what cannot be ignored is that these were Jat youth from the same village – who recognised Reshma as a Dalit girl from their village. Was this not a factor in emboldening them to rape, confident of their impunity as members of the dominant community. Their confidence that they could terrorise her into silence, surely arose not only from the gendered and patriarchal notion of ‘shame’ imposed on her, but also on the fact that she was a Dalit who would think many times before daring to take on Jats.
Moreover, the fear and insecurity of the Dalit community following the gang-rape is palpable.
What if it is true that a married man from the backward Chippi community took Reshma along to the deserted spot with her consent? If true, this fact would in no way take away from the horrific crime of gang-rape that was committed by the other men – all Jats.
Hence, the SC/ST Act must be invoked in this case.
We hold that there is no substantial conflict in the versions of the incident regarding the actual gang-rape.
If (as has been suggested by some) the rape survivor has been reluctant to admit that she voluntarily accompanied a man to the spot, that is all too understandable. She would fear the social consequences of such an admission; the speculations about her morality that would follow; she would fear that her allegations of gang-rape would be questioned; and she might also not want to implicate the man with whom she had been friendly.
Can one blame her? She has seen the ruling party (Congress) spokesperson from her district say that 90% rape cases are consensual. Women in our society are told that if you agree to sex or even friendships with men before or outside marriage, why do you object to rape?
Social inhibitions of the rape survivor regarding admitting to a relationship, must not be made a pretext to undermine the credibility of her allegation of gang-rape.
Pressures on the Survivor?
We learnt that the rape survivor had named some of the accused in the FIR, but in her statement before a magistrate, she failed to name any of the accused.
There are indications of pressures on the survivor, not only from influential members of the dominant community as well as vested political interests from her own community. Some accounts suggested that the latter too were attempting to make political capital from the incident, while tacitly weakening the case by misguiding the survivor.
1. The rape survivor is especially courageous and brave. All efforts must be made to ensure that the Government backs her aspirations for education, and also ensures a job for her, not just for her brother.
2. Every effort must be made by the authorities to ensure protection and support for the rape survivor, to ensure that she does not come under any pressure, inducement, or advice by vested interests to ‘compromise’.
3. The case must be fast-tracked, since the more time passes, the more scope there is for the accused to bring pressure on the victim.
4. Rehabilitation for the family and schooling and higher education for the survivor be arranged as per their wishes
Naveena (name changed), a girl belonging to landless ‘Dhanak’ (Dalit Community) was gang raped by four persons on Sep 26, 2012. She was 18 years old and had been married just three months back.
Her father Karmaji is a ‘rajmistri’ with five siblings-3 sisters and 2 brothers. At the time of the incident, she was at her paternal house in Banwasa village of Gohana tehsil of Sonipat district.
Naveena was alone at her parental home when she received a message from her cousin Rambatheri that her husband is waiting for her at Gohana bus. Rambatheri apparently passed on the message given on phone by Shravan (one of the accused). Naveena’s brother, in the course of the conversation, later said that the call had in fact been made to Naveena’s bhabhi Malti.
Falling in the trap she left for Gohana around 10 am on September 26, not to return for next two days. Her brother Gurmit Singh returned from his school at 2 pm when he found that Sunila was not at home after which he spread the word. The worried family made calls to relatives enquiring about her, including to her husband Sunil, staying at Adiyana village of Panipat district, who said she had not returned to his home.
They were not able to trace Naveena on September 27 and 28, after which they informed the police on September 29. In the meantime, Naveena was abducted in a car in broad daylight from Gohana bus stand by the four accused. They took her to Hartadi in Panipat district where she was gangraped for two days.
The Village Sarpanch who belongs to same community as Naveena assisted the family in tracking her. The police, taking the lead from Shravan’s mobile number, nabbed the culprits on September 29.
Three of the accused belongs to same ‘Dhanak’ community. The fourth accused of Sikandara Manjara village belongs to Brahmin community.
We had gone in the daytime, so Naveena was away working in the fields. We were unable to meet her in spite of our efforts, so many unanswered questions remain about the incident.
Protection to the rape survivor, speedy trial, and punishment for those identified by the survivor as the rapists.
Sharmila, aged 16 years, committed suicide after being raped by Pradeep and Naveen in broad day light on Oct 6, 2012. The accused were assisted in the crime by Manoj, Meenu (Manoj’s wife) and Sanjeev.
The victim as well as the accused belongs to same Balmiki community.
While Sharmila was returning home she was dragged into Manoj’s house, near her own house, by one of the accused, Pradeep. While she was being raped Manoj, Meenu and Sanjeev kept guard.
After the incident the girl later went to her uncle house nearby, poured kerosene on her body and immolated herself. On hearing her screams, the neighbours rushed to the spot and informed the police.
She was taken to Narwana Hospital in police van and was referred to Rohtak hospital. Her statement was recorded by the Magistrate only after much persuasion and delay, before she succumbed to her injuries at the emergency ward of the hospital.
One of the accused Manoj is related to the sitting MLA Prithvi Singh of INLD of Narwana constituency. After the initial lapse the police was able to nab all the accused in the next two days. However, Sharmila’s family was apprehensive that Manoj might escape punishment.
The Sarpanch of Saccha Kheda village, Nirmala, was initially reluctant to discuss the case, leaving it to her husband Ram Bhagat to do the talking. Eventually they both adopted the refrain, “The guilty should be punished but the innocent should not face unjust action,” indicating that in their view Manoj and Meenu are being unjustly accused. But they could not explain what motive Sharmila’s family had to level false accusations on anyone. The Sarpanch’s home had several large photographs and displays dedicated to the Chautala family and the INLD.
As per some news reports the accused have also made advances earlier on Sharmila which was duly informed to the police but no action was taken.
1. The rapists, as well as those who enabled the rape by preventing the victim’s escape, must be punished severely.
2. Measures must be taken to prevent any of the accused from taking refuge behind political protection.
General Observations and Conclusions:
The spate of rape cases in Haryana is cause enough for concern. The CM, Bhoopinder Hooda, has said there is nothing alarming about these incidents since they are not unique to Haryana. Sonia Gandhi too has said that the Haryana Government cannot be held responsible for the rapes.
However, it is impossible to deny that the Government, as well as the entire ruling establishment including the ruling party and the main Opposition party, are deeply culpable for the rising instances of rapes and other crimes against women.
Dharmveer Goyat, one of the spokespersons for the ruling Congress, has declared that 90% of rapes are consensual. In other words, most rape complainants are liars, in his view.
Phool Chand Mulana, Chief of Haryana’s ruling party, the Congress, declared that the rapes are a conspiracy against the Government.
Khap panchayat leaders and former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala proposed child marriage as a solution to prevent rape. ‘Child marriage’ – i.e marriage before the age of 16 – is something the khap panchayats have long been demanding. Because marriage in childhood can help achieve their objective of preventing self-choice marriages – that they otherwise seek to achieve through threats of violence and ‘honour’ killings. When Haryana DGP R S Dalal said parents need to keep an eye on the activities of their children, he too is advocating greater surveillance – mainly on the mobility of young girls.
Rape itself is one way of maintaining patriarchal and caste domination through terror. And these reactionary ‘solutions’ for rape only seek to strengthen the patriarchal stranglehold on women.
The fact is that casteist and patriarchal forces are feeling emboldened because they feel that the Haryana Government and the police are with them. The Government and police have time and again protected the perpetrators of ‘honour crimes’ and atrocities against dalits be it at Bhagana, Mirchhpur, or Gohana. And this is undoubtedly a factor in the increasing rapes and other forms of violence on women.
We hear praise from some quarters nowadays for the Haryana Government’s efforts to campaign against sex-selective abortion by roping in the khap panchayats. The khap panchayats have also offered their services in preventing and punishing rape – suggesting that social boycott of rapists would be a deterrent. We believe that such initiatives are dishonest and misleading. Violence against women – be it rape, ‘honour’ crimes or sex-selective abortion - can be resisted and curbed only by measures that safeguard and promote women’s equality and rights and by struggles against patriarchal forces, attitudes, and structures. The solution to crimes against women cannot come from those very patriarchal forces that are the bulwark of sexist and misogynist attitudes.
Rather than claiming to rope in khap panchayats to fight crimes on women, the Haryana Government ought rather to heed the demands of women’s groups, act firmly against the anti-constitutional activities of khap panchayats; and come down hard on any instances of collusion between police forces and khap panchayats or others accused of crimes against women and Dalits.
National Secretary (AIPWA)