Sexually assaulted victims of Muzaffarnagar riots are still waiting for the trial to start
The growing hate between the two communities namely, Hindu Jats and Muslims, showed its peak on Sept.7, 2013 and Sept.8, 2013 as the first instance of sectarian violence that broke out in Muzaffarnagar district and Shamli district of UP. Nine villages namely Phugana, Lisarh, Kutba, Bhawadi, Lakh, Loni, Kharad,Kurmali and Bajeetpur were affected in the brutal riots. It didn’t take long for the patriarchal, sexist urge of the panchayat to put women and their ‘honor’ in the center and transform it into communal, political tinder. Rumor provided the fuel that fed the raging communal fire (Dixit 2014).
Boys of my son’s age did not finch even for a moment before pulling my salwar down (Dixit 2014)
Thus began the vicious circle of violence and brutality. Mass rapes and sexual violence against women were freely used as instruments of asserting the power and authority of one community over the other. Officially, 72 people died, seven women were raped and a few hundreds injured. But visits to Ground zero and conversation in relief camps suggest that many hundreds were killed, close to 100 women raped and over a lakh displaced from their home forever. (Dixit 2014)
I was raped in front of my son. They kept him at gunpoint. I couldn’t do anything. interview with Sabhya(Name changed)
Only seven women dared to come forward and register cases against their rapists. They have received a compensation of half a million by the state government and a security guard each on the direction of the Supreme Court.
At the age of 16 I was gang raped during the riots. I was going to cut grass with my mother at 9.30 a.m. on 8th September. Monu and Govinda, 27-30 years old, came from backside and raped me turn by turn. When I told them about revealing this to my parents, they cut my throat left assuming me as dead. I fainted after this and was admitted in Meerut for two and a half months. – interview with Namrana(name changed)
The FIRs were filed within a month (Six from village Phugana and one from Shamli district). However, the victim from Shamli couldn’t file a FIR since it had to be lodged in the police station of Shamli and they were too scared to go back. She had sent a written complaint to the police station who on receiving it did not file a FIR. The statements which should be recorded as soon as possible in front of the judicial magistrate were not recorded till two months. However, in December they got recorded in front of a male judicial magistrate.
In cases of sexual offence, as per law, the statements are recorded in front of a lady magistrate. – Ratna,junior lawyer under Vrinda Grover One woman (P1) was threatened by the accused and hence she changed her statement because of which her case was closed. Only in May, P1 could record her statement again. Her case was closed for the second time as the investigating officer, Mala Yadav, decided that it was only being done for the compensation.
Investigating officer also tried to convince her to close the case – Ratna
A petition was filed by Vrinda Grover, an eminent lawyer and scholar, on behalf of the victims, requesting the arrest of the named accused and security and compensation. The medical examination which should have been done after recording of FIRs was done much later. The six FIRs registered by the police were under section 376(d) which is also the provision for gang rapes, however the correct section was section (2)(g) of IPC which is rape during communal and Sectarian violence. This section attracts 114(a) of the Indian evidence Act, which states that in certain situations of state violence or communal rape it is assumed that the woman did not consent. Thus, it becomes easier to prove the involvement of accused. It was alleged that there was malafide in sense of investigation of police and the investigating officer, Mala Yadav.
A petition dealing with transfer of the case to an independent investigating agency and issues of rehabilitation and compensation were stated. It was heard in January and the Supreme Court directed the state of UP to provide security cover to the victims. By February 2014 victims got security as Supreme Court passed a judgement; however P1 was not given security till July 2014.
The Supreme Court had directed that the compensation should be given within four weeks but it was received in 4th week of May 2014. There were around 29 people accused out of whom one was arrested in January, one in March and another in June. Clearly, there was no follow-up on the Supreme Court’s directions. There was a contempt filed saying how the directions of Supreme Court were not being complied. It was also brought to the attention of the Supreme Court that out of three arrested; one was given bail in October, whereas the judgement said that in case of heinous crimes if the bail is granted, the state should file a petition to cancel the bail. But the state hadn’t filed any such statement. In May the security was withdrawn from the victims because of the general elections. P1 did not get compensation till September, 2014 and there were several instances of threats that she faced. It was noticed that section 376(2) (g) was still not followed and charge sheets weren’t filed in six of the cases till April and May. Section 376(2) (g) wasn’t invoked even though it was mentioned several times.
It has been reported that many rape victims are being threatened by the families of the accused to withdraw the case. Friends and relatives of those who have been named in the FIRs keep visiting this area to get us to compromise.
The other day I was threatened that our present house would be burnt. interview with husband of P2 (Dixit 2014)
After the contempt was filed all the accused of the six cases were arrested. Now, P1’s case has also been re-opened after petitions filed but the accused haven’t been arrested in her case.
They asked to take some money and do away with the case. Since the trial is about to start, these people are trying to scare me. The bribed my in-laws for the same. One police official has to give a statement which he is not giving. He must have been bribed by the Jats. -Interview with Namrana
The trial is getting late because of regular strikes in Muzaffarnagar Court. Also, a departmental inquiry has been initiated against the investigating officer and she has been removed from the case. But now the issue remains that the Allahabad Court is granting bails to the accused. The state of UP has to give petition requesting cancellation of the bails which is currently not happening. At every stage there was a delay. Delay makes petitioners vulnerable to threat. Even now the trial hasn’t started though its dates were back in December. interview with Ratna