New Delhi: “Bahut majboori mein hum yahaan aayein hain (We’re here under a lot of compulsion),” said almost everyone speaking at a press conference in the capital on Wednesday. Why else would two rape survivors who had lost two family members and watched two others be brutally beaten to the point of unconsciousness only a fortnight ago relive the incident in front of dozens of reporters?
On the intervening night of August 24-25, a family in the village of Dingerheri in the Mewat district of Haryana was attacked by a mob of eight to 10 men. A Muslim couple in their 30s, Rasheedan and Ibrahim, were killed. Two other members of their family, Ayesha and Jafruddin, were seriously injured and are still in the hospital in critical condition. A 21-year-old woman and 16-year-old girl from the family were gangraped. The entire incident lasted for three hours.
Four of the accused, who have been identified by the rape survivors, are now in police custody.
“Even though this is what the family members said in their complaints, the police filed an FIR that didn’t have sections 302 and 307 (murder) or rape charged. Instead, it charged unknown persons with 459 and 460, related to trespassing and theft,” said Ali Anwar Ansari, an MP and member of the Janata Dal (United). “The dead bodies were left as they were, not even taken for a postmortem. All the police did was take the young rape survivors for a hurried testimony in front of a magistrate.”
Political pressure has a lot to do with how this case was handled, Ansari argued. “A certain divisive section and mindset is at work in Mewat, as in the rest of the country,” he said. “The authorities added the relevant sections of the IPC to the FIR only after there was external pressure from civil society organisations, lawyers and the media. They are trying to shield the accused.”
“All of us here have no faith in the local police,” said activist Shabnam Hashmi, who has worked extensively in the area. “They have already tried to shield the accused and not bring this case to the public eye. We demand that the investigation be handed over to the CBI.”
“The police is also trying to pass this off as a one-off incidence of trespassing that led to violence,” Hashmi continued. “But violence of this magnitude and this level of brutality is usually premeditated. And there is reason to believe that these men have political affiliations because of which they are being protected.”
According to the Facebook profiles of at least two of the accused, they are affiliated with Hindu right-wing organisations. On the profile of one the accused, Rahul Verma, it says he “started working” with the RSS in April this year. The profile of another, Rao Amarjeet, until yesterday had a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the caption ‘Muslim toh gye’ (Muslims are gone). The accused are also known in the locality as members of a gau raksha samiti (cow protection group) and have been involved in “scuffles” where they have accused people of cow slaughter or beef trade.
“While I do not have any solid proof, the facts seem to suggest that this was premeditated attack on a certain community,” Hashmi said, after presenting the Facebook posts.
One of the rape survivors tried to speak to reporters present, but broke down halfway through reliving the horrific experience she went through in the removed setting of a central Delhi lawn. “After they killed my mama mami, they tried to take me into a room. When I tried to run away, they put a knife on my child. Then four of them gangraped me,” she said.
Zubeida, who washed the body of her sister Rasheedan after she was killed, talked about the condition in which she found the body. “Her head wouldn’t stop bleeding. Their were cuts everywhere, her arm was broken in multiple places, her neck was displaced. Her breasts were also heavily bruised,” Zubeida said.
The Bar Association in the region has been one of the key players in making this case public and are continuing their efforts to get justice for the family. “Efforts from the media are needed to fight the state trying to suppress incidents like this,” Ramzan Chaudhury from the association said. “They went to the extent of taking the victims bayan in a hurry, so that they would trip up and make a mistake.”
Former president of the association Mehmood Ul Hasan agreed. “The police were taking this case extremely lightly until it came to public notice. They didn’t put the heinous crimes on the FIR in order to protect the victims and so that the media wouldn’t take note of it. Finally, when we met the SP and the DSP, they admitted that there had been some errors on their part.”