No school, no friends, verbally harassed by the accused — 17-yo rape survivor's nightmare continues

Last year, the panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh's Barabanki turned murky when a minor daughter of a Dalit, who was contesting the polls, was allegedly gangraped. The survivor and her family complain that they continue to face threats from the accused who are free on bail. In a series titled 'Twice Cursed', Gaon Connection revisits families of the victims and survivors of rape, now forgotten.

Shivani GuptaShivani Gupta   20 Oct 2022 11:04 AM GMT

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No school, no friends, verbally harassed by the accused — 17-yo rape survivors nightmare continues

The minor gangrape survivor who was raped by four men of her village in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh. Photo: Manvendra Singh 

Shivani Gupta and Manvendra Singh

Zaidpur (Barabanki), Uttar Pradesh

The 17-year-old rarely steps out of her house that is little more than a tin shed with tarpaulin sheets serving as a roof and a flimsy wooden front door. The dilapidated house in a village in Zaidpur town is barely 500 metres from the home of one of the accused who allegedly gangraped the Dalit minor girl on March 15, 2021.

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"I have lost everything. I do not step out of my home. And, when I do, I cannot lift my head. They [the accused] comment and hurl abuses at me whenever I pass by," the gangrape survivor, who as per the FIR (First Information Report) was 15 years old when raped by four men of her village in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, told Gaon Connection.

It's been more than one-and-a-half years since the rape incident, but the Dalit girl and her family allege that they continue to receive death threats from the accused who are out on bail. Meanwhile, the rape survivor has had to stop going to school; she failed her high school exams and now tries to study at home.

"Before this incident, I went to school freely, but not any more. My friends have stopped visiting me. Whenever I pass by that canal [where she was allegedly abducted], I relive what happened to me," she sobbed.

The rape survivor carefully placing her school uniform on the wooden cot. She does not go to school anymore. Photo: Shivani Gupta

Also Read: "I live in dread — afraid of being alone even for a moment. I fear that I may be raped at any time"

On March 15, 2021, the rape survivor was allegedly gangraped by four men in her village, which is located about 50 kilometres from the state capital Lucknow. It was meant to be a warning to her father, a Dalit, who was contesting gram pradhan elections.

"My rival contestant tried to dissuade me from contesting and warned me not to take part in the panchayat (rural body) elections. Eight days later, my daughter was abducted and gangraped. One of the four accused in the case is the son of the rival contestant," the father of the rape survivor told Gaon Connection.

The father, who works as a daily wage labourer to feed his family of six, lost the panchayat polls and a life of dignity. According to him, he has been receiving death threats from the accused for a while now. Two days back, on October 18, the family wrote a complaint to the Superintendent of Police, Barabanki, seeking protection.

"What do I do now? We are scared. They are very powerful people. I have been running to thana several times, but there is no progress in the case," the father told Gaon Connection.

The father of the survivor checking the legal documents. The trial of the case is underway in the Barabanki court. Photo: Manvendra Singh

Yesterday, on October 19, the circle officer Sumit Tripathi, called both the parties — the father of the rape survivor and the accused — to discuss the matter. The four accused — Akash Verma, Shivam Verma, Sachin Verma, and Lalji Verma — are out on bail.

"I have assured the family that if they receive such threats, they can phone me on my personal number and I will write the litigation report against the accused and their bail will be dismissed. The (victim's) family has agreed to give one more chance to the accused," the Circle Officer, Sadar, Barabanki, told Gaon Connection. The circle officer is responsible for prevention of crime and detection of crime in their circle.

On being questioned about the recent written complaint submitted by the rape survivor's father, Subhash Chandra Mishra, Reserve Inspector, Barabanki Police Line, said: "If they have submitted the application, investigation must be underway. It takes between two days to a week in the investigation depending upon the complexity of the case."

Also Read: Uniform In the Eyes of the Law: How many FIRs lodged against erring cops in Uttar Pradesh, post Nirbhaya?

This story of the 2021 Barabanki gangrape case, is the third in the series, Twice Cursed, by Gaon Connection. As part of this series, Gaon Connection is going back to the homes of rape victims and rape survivors, now forgotten.

A number of these rural families are fighting legal battles, some under the 'stringent' Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, while the accused are out on bail. Social ostracism and threat to life are some other challenges they face in their day to day lives.

The rape survivor digging for her school uniform in the large trunk. Photo: Shivani Gupta

"I stay at home with my dadi [grandmother] while my parents step out for work. They ensure they are back home before the sun sets," said the rape survivor.

This 'stringent' POCSO Act, meant to protect children from sexual offences, has a provision for speedy trial and stiff punishment. It was enacted after the 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder - the Nirbhaya case. An offence under the POCSO Act is non-bailable. And the trial should ideally conclude within a year of the offence.

Also Read: Two years after the Hathras gangrape and killing, a family is transformed unrecognisably and forever

Under the POCSO Act, whoever commits "aggravated penetrative sexual assault" shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

But for tens of thousands of families, like the 17-year-old from the village in Barabanki district, the reality is very different.

The rape survivor's house that does not have a single room or a toilet. All belongings including documents, books, vegetables, are kept in open. Photo: Shivani Gupta

The chargesheet in the 2021 Barabanki case accessed by Gaon Connection shows all the four accused in the case were summoned under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 376 D (gangrape), 506 (criminal intimidation), Section 3/5 of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Act, Section 342 (wrongful confinement), Section 24, and Section 5g and Section 6 (sexual assault) under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. However, all four were released on bail between seven to 10 months of imprisonment.

An offence under POCSO Act is a non-bailable offence. "But it does not mean that bail will not be granted. It means that one has to seek bail from the court," Renu Mishra, a Lucknow-based lawyer, explained Gaon Connection.

Rohit Tripathi, a lawyer in the Lucknow High Court, told Gaon Connection "We talk about expeditious trials but we give bail to the accused. If we end the bail process, then trial can be fast," Tripathi said. "Granting bail is a major loophole which defies the objective of the Act. This should end," he said.

Also Read: Accused out on bail for 8 years; tareekh-pe-tareekh for the minor victims' family in Budaun gangrape-murder case

"Those who were jailed have been released. I have not got justice. I want them to get life imprisonment. I do not want to see them ever. And I want to move out of this village, and never come back," said the 17-year-old rape survivor from Barabanki.

Suresh Gautam, the lawyer representing the case in Barabanki court, told Gaon Connection that the trial is underway. "Although the accused are out on bail, their bail can be dismissed and they will be summoned if they continue to threaten the family."

As per the lawyer, gangrape was confirmed in the medical examination of the survivor and thereafter IPC Section 376 was imposed against the four people.

The rape survivor's family was given a compensation of Rs 618,000 from the government.

The rape survivor's house that is little more than a tin shed with tarpaulin sheets serving as a roof. Photo: Shivani Gupta

Also Read: Caste-based violence: "More than stricter laws, the need of the hour is quick implementation of the existing laws"

The government's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data suggests how violence against Dalit women in India is on the rise. A total of 31,677 rape cases have been reported in 2021 in the country. Of this, over 12 per cent (3,870) cases were of 'Rape against SC women'. There were 1,285 rape cases among children belonging to the SC communities also reported.

Cases of sexual assault against scheduled castes account for 12.22 per cent of the total cases reported in the country and every third such rape is of a minor girl.

Meanwhile, the accused and their families consider the gangrape allegations a poll conspiracy and greed.

"This was chunavi ranjish (poll conspiracy). They (the survivor family) did this to gain empathy from janta (public) to win elections. My son has been falsely framed," Sunil Kumar Verma, the gram pradhan of the village, told Gaon Connection. Verma won by 22 votes. More than half of the village with about 2,100 voters are Dalit voters numbering 1,600.

Also Read: This father was advised to marry his minor daughter off to one of her gang rape accused

Apart from the poll conspiracy theories, three of the accused have been alleging that the girl was in a relationship for over a year with one of their fellow accused, Sachin.

"The girl had an affair with Sachin. The three of us are innocent. I am a friend of the present pradhan. And that is why the girl's father has accused me. Forget rape, I did not even see the girl that day. I was in Barabanki for work," Lalji Verma, one of the accused, told Gaon Connection.

The accused in the case: Sachin Verma, Shivam Verma, Lalji Verma (from left to right). Photo: Manvendra Singh

The main accused, Sachin Verma, said: "We were in a relationship for a year. Two days before the incident, she asked me to buy her a mobile phone and wanted an outing in Barabanki. We spent the day together and I dropped her near home. Later the father beat her and took her to the police station and registered an FIR against the four of us."

Sachin was jailed on March 21, 2021, six days after the incident, but was released on January 13, 2022. Since then he, and the three other accused, are out on bail.

"Till these accused are not summoned, they will keep troubling us. Either the administration puts them in jail, or they put us in jail. We are not safe here," said the father of the rape survivor.

#story #Rape #TwiceCursed #POCSO 

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