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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 1 New Delhi December 21, 2019 | ANNUAL NUMBER

Unnao: Documenting Rape and Violence against Women

Saturday 21 December 2019

by Arup Sen

The Unnao district in Uttar Pradesh (UP) has earned notoriety for two spectacular cases of rape and violence against women in recent times. It should be mentioned in this connection that rape has become an organic part of everyday life in Unnao. According to the Superintendent of Police, Unnao, “51 cases of rape have been registered from January 1 till November 30 in the police stations falling under the Unnao district” in 2019. Nearly 200 rape cases have been registered in the district during 2015-18. (See India Today, December 8, 2019)

What happened on December 5, 2019 is an instance of unimaginable brutality. A 23-year old rape victim in Unnao was set ablaze by five men, including two of her alleged rapists, Shivam Trivedi and his friend, Shubham Trivedi. The woman sustained nearly 90 per cent burn injuries in the fire assault and succumbed to her injuries at a Delhi hospital two days later. The woman had filed an FIR alleging that Shivam Trivedi, a resident of her village in the Unnao district, had brought her to Rae Bareli in 2017, raped her, recorded a video of the incident and sexually abused her multiple times under the threat of making the video public. She had also accused Shivam Trivedi and Shuvam Trivedi of raping her at gunpoint, in December 2018. Initially, the police did not take any action on her complaint. It was only in March, 2019, following the court’s directions, that the police finally registered an FIR against the two accused. Shubham Trivedi, son of the village pradhan, was not arrested for the rape. On the other hand, ten days before the woman was set on fire, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court had granted bail to the prime accused, Shivam Trivedi (two months after he was arrested). In its bail order, Justice Rajeev Singh said: “Considering the rival submissions of learned counsel for parties, material available on record as well as totality of fact and circumstances, and without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, I am of the view that that the applicant is entitled to be released on bail.”

The violence on the rape victim by the accused in the Trivedi rape case was preceded by another such spectacular rape case from Unnao. Kuldeep Sengar, the BJP member of the Legislative Assembly in UP, was arrested in April, 2018 (nearly a year after he was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl from Unnao), after the girl threatened to set herself ablaze in front of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home in Lucknow if the police did not file her complaint. On July 12, 2019, the rape survivor and her family sent a letter to the then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, alleging grave danger to them from the accused. The matter was taken up by the Apex Court days after the rape victim and her lawyer were critically injured and two of her aunts died in a car crash on their way to Rae Bareli. A truck, which hit their car, allegedly had its number plate painted black. It was alleged that the car crash was planned by the man, jailed Kuldeep Sengar, whom the girl had accused of rape. Days after the car crash, Sengar had been expelled from the BJP.

On August 1, 2019, the Supreme Court transferred the Sengar rape case from UP to New Delhi, and had directed that the case be completed in 45 days. The Court also directed the UP Government to pay interim compensation of Rs. 25 lakhs to the rape survivor immediately. Reportedly, the case is still ongoing.

The Sengar rape case is a blatant instance of abuse of political power. The Trivedi rape case also has some link with the exercise of local power at the village level. Moreover, the above cases also testify crude exercise of upper-caste power. The Trivedis are Brahmins and Senegar is Thakur, both socially powerful upper-caste communities in UP. In fact, the victim’s family in the Trivedi rape case belong to a backward caste and her father is a blacksmith.

 In the wake of the Unnao rapes and brutal acts of violence on the rape victims afterwards, serious questions have cropped up in the public mind regarding the role of the police and the judiciary in giving protection to the victims and their families.

(The sources of information cited in the article: www.livelaw.in; www.ndtv.com; www.caravanmagazine.in

The Hindu, December 9, 2019)

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