Women and Dalit families in Mahoba district in Bundelkhand who have faced violence, instead of seeking legal recourse, often arrive at a ‘samjhauta’.
In Mahoba’s Charkhari block in Uttar Pradesh, a nine-year-old Dalit boy was allegedly raped by another boy on November 30. The complainant’s mother claims that all the children were playing together when the 16-17 year old accused pulled her son inside a room, gagged him and did ‘badtameezi‘, while another boy stood guard outside. When we spoke to the complainant, he named the accused and confirmed the charges. The complainant’s parents confronted the accused’s family the same evening; they allege the accused’s family used foul language and disparaging caste-based words before throwing them out: “Hamse chamar kahne lage aur kaha jaao, jo hota hai tumse kar lo (They called us ‘chamar’, or untouchable, and told us to leave, telling us to do whatever we could about it).”
When we were reporting on this case, the local body elections had just come to an end in the region, and Mahoba had witnessed a hysterical pace of political activity. In the midst of this, the complainant’s father alleged that the accused’s family was close to a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA and cited that as the main reason for them being unable to lodge an FIR or seek justice. Being from the Dalit community made the process even more difficult for them. “Voh BJP ke karyakarta hain. Hum log thodi neechi jaati ke hain isliye na hamari FIR likhi ja rahi hai na hamari sunvai ho rahi hai, na hamara koi saboot kar raha hai ki hamare Dalit samaaj ka utpeedan ho raha hai. Hum chaahte hain ki hamaare bachhe ko insaaf mile (He is a worker from the BJP party. We belong to a lower caste and that’s why our FIR isn’t being lodged and nobody is interested in listening to us. Nobody wants to gather evidence. This is exploitation of the Dalit community and all we want is that our boy gets justice).”
The caste angle in this story also highlighted a complex reality that we encounter on a daily basis while reporting in Bundelkhand. Just a week before we covered this story, there was the case of a Dalit girl who had been sexually harassed by ‘upper-caste’ boys in a village in the neighbouring Banda district. The pradhan of the village, also a Dalit, talked about the impunity enjoyed by those in the upper ladders of the caste hierarchy and how that emboldens them further. He went on to say that if the accused in such crimes are not arrested, people from the Dalit community would simply have no choice but to leave the village. Several cases have revealed this harsh reality: cases of violence against Dalits are not registered, those implicated are not arrested, or then there is pressure to arrive at a compromise and drop charges registered. Was this case going to be any different?
The superintendent of police (SP) in Mahoba, N. Kolanchi, spoke to us and confirmed that there was a complaint that the Charkhari police station had received of a seven-year-old boy being sexually assaulted by another minor boy – and that this boy was most likely the report we were following up on. The SP said that a case would be filed and following this, medical investigations would reveal whether this was indeed sodomy or an attempt to sodomise had been made. The SP stated that the medical report and the accused’s age would determine the nature of action that the police would take in this case, going forward.
Mahoba has always been at the centre of our reporting on crimes in Bundelkhand. Our stories on illegal mining, dowry deaths, rapes of minor girls and elderly women have always left us baffled with the rampant nature of crimes in the district. In many of the stories, we’ve been certain of the nexus between those in political power and the accused; however, people have refused to speak on camera fearing for their lives and livelihoods. In the same context, we followed this story of the Dalit boy’s alleged rape. The medical examination that was done subsequently revealed that the boy was sodomised. The FIR filed in Charkhari police station on November 30 charged the accused under IPC Section 377 (unnatural offences), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and the SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act). No arrests had been made and we continued to follow the case.
We have followed several cases of violence against women who have been murdered or those who have faced brutal violence in their husband’s homes, but instead of seeking legal recourse, their families arrive at a ‘samjhauta‘. This compromise between two families or communities due to societal and/or political pressure results in complaints of women being reversed or quashed. In the Dalit boy’s case too, there was a ‘razinama‘ that took place. The compromise took place between the two families.
On speaking to the complainant’s father just a few days ago, we were told that it was all a misunderstanding and that the complaint had been withdrawn. “Galatfahmi ho gayi thi humein, bachhon ka aapas ka maamla hai (It was a case of misunderstanding, whatever happened was between the kids).”
Suneeta Prajapati, our reporter who’d been following the story, is certain of the reasons for this razinama though. She gave us the same statement that we’ve heard so often in Mahoba: “Koi bolne ke liye taiyaar nahin hai (Nobody’s willing to speak on the matter).”
This piece first appeared on Khabar Lahariya.
Khabar Lahariya is a rural, video-first digital news organisation with an all-women network of reporters in eight districts of Uttar Pradesh.