15 September 2019 06:56 PM

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THE CITIZEN EDITORIAL | 29 JULY, 2019

Accident or Attack? A Young Girl's Ordeal in Her Search for Justice

Battling to survive


In law and order there is nothing like a coincidence. Each crime has to be investigated and examined with a toothcomb. So when a girl fighting a powerful person in the ruling dispensation is hit by a truck with blackened number plates, clearly something is badly amiss. And citizens are not wrong in demanding answers to questions, questions that become very relevant against the backdrop of what this teenager has had to endure, ever since she mustered up the courage to accuse a BJP legislator in Uttar Pradesh of rape.

Even more so now that her sister and other relatives have categorically said that the accident was part of a conspiracy hatched by legislator Kuldeep Sengar.

The young girl is battling for her life in hospital. Her two aunts travelling with her to Rae Bareilly to meet a relative were killed. Her lawyer is also in hospital, seriously injured. The police have arrested the driver. The case has been given to the Central Bureau of Investigation to determine whether it was an accident.

But this is just one in a series of horrific incidents the young girl has had to undergo after she was duped into going to Sengar’s house in search of employment and was raped by him on June 4, 2017. Her statement to this effect was recorded by police on June 22. And after this she was not allowed to name the rapist, a powerful four-term MLA. Subsequently, instead of finding relief she was drawn into another nightmare.

No justice came her way in the months that followed, with reports suggesting continued harassment. In April her father was assaulted by Sengar’s supporters and then arrested by the police. A medical examination confirmed that he had been attacked. He recorded a statement saying that Sengar’s brother had led the attack. Desperate, the young girl came to Lucknow and protested before UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence. She tried to immolate herself on April 8. The very next day her father died in police custody.

The trauma that the girl faced is unimaginable. The wide publicity and horror forced the government then to arrest the legislator’s brother and suspend six police officers. It was only after this that the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Instigation to still the criticism, and Sengar was arrested.

But the ordeal was far from over. The survivor’s uncle, brother of her late father, who was very active with her in the search for justice, was arrested in some old case in November last year. And now on July 28 she met with this accident, colliding with a truck with blackened number plates, along with her lawyer and her two aunts who died.

Significantly, the security that had been provided to her was not present; they were supposedly ‘on leave’ yesterday.

The incident raises serious questions of power and impunity. The investigation must not stop at the truck and its driver, and must go beyond to trace the genesis of the alleged conspiracy. Going by the statements made by the girl’s family, a clear message is being sent out: Do not mess with the powerful in the ruling dispensation.

If the allegations levelled by the victim’s sister are true, an MLA in jail has the power to pass by the arms of law, and manipulate the system to assist him in targeting the young victim. The UP Chief Minister who has been claiming an unbreakable record in tightening law and order thus has a lot to answer for.

Even more important than the investigation into whether this was an ‘accident’ or ‘attack’, is the message going out to girls everywhere, always at the bottom rung of hierarchy.

. That they must think before moving against powerful men who control access to the system, or else face consequences, like this young girl who has had to undergo more than most persons do in a lifetime.

. That survivors of rape have few rights so far as the police is concerned, which in this case has managed to suppress the case for the better part of the foregoing year. The assault came to light only when the young girl came to Lucknow to protest, and had to try and immolate herself to get the media headlines, and hence any hope of justice.

. That security is but a myth for the common citizen seeking justice, with the law used by the powerful to their own end, in a way that is ruthless and indeed frightening. She lost her father just because he was trying to get her justice. Her uncle was arrested when he took up the cause. And now she has lost two aunts, and is herself in a critical condition. It may be that her entire family has had to pay the price, for their courage in supporting their girl and fighting for her rights and for justice.

. And that there are levels that the powerful know how to play with. In that while the case was handed over to the CBI to assuage public opinion, the law’s underbelly got going in a manner that made mockery of justice and security on the ground.

Citizens have kicked up a storm, and just as this placed Sengar in jail last year, angry public opinion cutting across divides might just succeed in ensuring a fair and transparent investigation into this alarming incident.
 

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