Gujarat Village Erupts in Protests After 19-Year-Old Dalit Woman Gang-Raped and Hanged

Gujarat police registered an FIR only after the dead body of the girl was found hanging from the tree.

Jaipur: After the body of a 19-year-old Dalit woman was found hanging from a banyan tree in Saira village in Gujarat’s Modasa on January 5, hundreds of the community members have been sitting on a protest at the Ahmedabad civil hospital demanding arrest of the culprits and suspension of the police officer on duty.

The family alleged that the police authorities didn’t register an FIR when they had first approached on January 1, soon after the woman went missing.

“When she went missing, her father went to file a complaint, but the police did not accept it. They did not file the rape FIR till two days after the body was found,” said the woman’s aunt.

She had gone to Modasa with her sister but didn’t return. Later, the sister revealed that a man named Bimal Bharwad lifted the woman on to his car and asked her to keep quiet about it. The CCTV footage of a cooperative running mill corroborated this claim.

The car seen in the footage was found to be registered in the name of Bimal’s father Bharat Bharwad.

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Bimal told the woman’s family that the car was taken by three of his friends, Darshan Bharwad, Satish Bharwad and Jigar.

On January 3, inspector at the Modasa police station N.K. Rabari informed the woman’s family that she had married a man from her community and would come back. However, the very next day, Rabari said that he didn’t have any jurisdiction in the matter and asked the family to approach Sabalpur police station.

On January 5, a priest in the village informed about a woman hanging from the tree who was later identified by the woman’s grandfather.

On January 7, the woman’s grandfather registered an FIR against Bimal and his three friends accusing them of gang-rape and murder.

Her body was brought to the Ahmedabad civil hospital on Tuesday. The family has refused to accept her body until the accused are arrested and Rabari is suspended for neglecting his duty.

“The protesters met me and sought a copy of the post mortem report. We have conveyed their sentiments to the relevant police authorities. Meanwhile, a panel postmortem was conducted at the hospital on Wednesday,” said the superintendent at the hospital Gunvant Rathod.

Activists have also demanded the arrest of the accused in the matter. “We have two demands. The perpetrators of this horrific crime should be arrested and the police inspector should be suspended for his actions. Only then will the family accept the body,” said Kirti Rathod, a Dalit activist.

Meanwhile, KK Ojha, additional DGP (ADGP) of the SC/ST Cell in Gujarat, have assured the protesters that action will be taken against the accused. “We have asked local police deputy superintendent to arrest the accused as soon as possible. Meanwhile, we have initiated a departmental inquiry to see if there was indeed negligence on part of the police in this matter,” said Ojha.