#India-Haryana’s bestial rape chronicles or where a rapist is considered ‘a real man’ #Vaw

Police indifference, panchayat interference and a regressive mindset ensure that rapes in Haryana will never stop, say Sai Manish andPriyanka Dubey

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BEYOND THE chowmein and the Om Prakash Chautala jokes, the scourge of rapes is very real in Haryana. So real that it’s hair-raising. So real, it even makes one wonder whether calling Haryana the rape capital is politically incorrect.

Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhuri

Sample this. On 8 December 2010, in the little known village of Pillu Kheda in Jind district, a 13-year-old girl was abducted by four boys, raped and left by the roadside. The girl somehow managed to crawl to a brick kiln for help, only to be raped again by two workers there. When she was finally let go in the evening, an autorickshaw driver offered to give her a lift, only to rape her again and dump her on the same road. Left for dead and crying for help, the young teen was picked up by a truck driver and his aide, who — not surprisingly by now — raped her repeatedly for nine days. The police eventually found the girl at a woman’s house in Panipat after her father had filed a missing complaint.

The police claims it has most of the perpetrators in custody, but activists say four rapists were let off after the panchayat intervened. This has been the familiar pattern in almost all rape cases in Haryana. A girl is raped — gangraped in most cases — and the police go through the motions of arresting a few people, only to set them free after the panchayat intervenes on their behalf. No one cares what happens to the victim, not a thought is spared; in fact, she is often forced to leave the village and never come back again.

Instead of serving as a deterrent, the Pillu Kheda rape case only seemed to encourage similar occurences. In a ghastly reminder of the 2010 rape, in July 2011, a 3½-year-old girl was raped by three men in the village. A year later, the police arrested the rapists and filed a chargesheet in August 2012. A look at the records of 2012 in the DSP office in Safido, Jind, reveals a shocking picture. In a space of five months, between February and June, a town of barely 3,000 people had witnessed six rapes. Rapes have not only become commonplace in Pillu Kheda, they are the norm. Another case recorded on 21 September was of a Dalit woman raped by three men in her house, who also filmed the heinous act on their mobile phones. It was only when the woman’s 7-year-old daughter saw her mother being raped from the window and screamed for help that the rapists left. In this case, the woman had clearly identified all three men, but the police is yet to prepare a chargesheet, waiting instead for the customary 60-day period to end before acting.

The speed at which police work is done is a major cause for concern in Haryana. “The laxity of the police is shameful,” says Jagmati Sangwan, state president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA). “There is a rape epidemic in Haryana and the main reason is that instead of putting culprits behind bars, the cops target activists who raise their voice against the system.” Even as repeated rapes catch a slumbering police unawares, many believe that deterrence cannot work in Haryana given the regressive mindset in the state, symbolised by the heavy interference of panchayats in every sphere of life, more so in cases of rape.

Even though khap panchayats strictly oppose same gotra marriages, they are silent when a girl is raped within a family

In Durjanpur village, Jind, Balwant alias Krishan, a Dalit of the Gosain caste, sits outside his hut on the outskirts of the village. It’s been six years since her schoolteacher raped Krishan’s 16-year-old daughter Rani* inside a classroom. An academically weak student, Rani was lured with a promise to elevate her to the next class and taken by surprise as PT instructor Rameshwar raped her inside the room while Maths teacher Ram Kumar Punia sat guard outside. Both Rameshwar and Punia belong to the Jat caste. Krishan gestures with his eye towards the panchayat members who keep an unrelenting watch on him. “Speak to the sarpanch. I have nothing to say,” he says.

It’s difficult to tell if it is a sense of loss or intimidation that suppresses memories of the days when Krishan and his daughter became the talk of a whole nation. When the attention died down, he took Rani out of school and married her off in another village, never again to set foot in the village “she had brought disrepute to”.

Caste, like police inaction and panchayat interference, plays a major role in how rape victims are perceived in Haryana. As the 14 villages surrounding Durjanpur are dominated by the Punia clan, it was decided that Rani would tell the court that Punia had only “insulted” her while Rameshwar, who belonged to neighbouring Uklana town, was the actual rapist. A sessions court sentenced Rameshwar to 10 years of imprisonment while Punia was declared not guilty. No one knows what transpired in the time when the girl had initially claimed that two men had raped her and when she recorded that one just mocked her after she was raped. For in Durjanpur, like hundreds of other villages in Haryana, fear triumphs over truth, false honour prevails over justice and clan loyalties often dictate statements of rape victims.

Ulka Mahajan
‘The guilty should be punished, but if the boy is not guilty and the girl is known to sleep around with many men, then we do not encourage a police investigation’
Daljit Singh
Sarpanch, Dhani Pirawala village
Photos: Arun Sehrawat

Between January and August this year, there have been 455 reported cases of rape in Haryana; hundreds go unreported. “There is no fear of the law in Haryana,” says Hisar-based advocate Rajat Kalsan, fighting the Dabra case involving the rape of a 16-year-old Dalit girl. “That’s because most of the administrative machinery, the state police and the judiciary is dominated by people whose relatives have a major hold on panchayats in the state. The Jats have terrorised the Dalits and backward castes and have become a law onto themselves.” Although women across castes have been raped, most victims are Dalits.

The caste factor plays out again and again with every reported instance of rape. Puneeta’s*, 19, a Dalit girl from Banwasa village of Sonipat district, is one such horror story. Married in July, Puneeta was visiting her marital home, when tragedy befell her. “On 28 September, when everyone had gone to work, and Puneeta was alone at home, our neighbour Maafi came and told her that her husband Sunil was waiting for her at the railway gate nearby,” says Puneeta’s 18-year-old brother, Gurmeet. “Initially, Puneeta was reluctant to leave the house empty, but when Maafi insisted, she left to meet her husband. He was anyway supposed to come the next day to take her home.”

At the crossing, Puneeta did not meet her husband, but two youths, Sunil and Sanjay from nearby Khandari village, who forced her into a car and drove away. They were soon joined by two more men from Ahemadpur Manjra, and together they took Puneeta to a deserted shed in the middle of a farm. There they raped and beat her repeatedly for the next five days.

At the family’s complaint, the police arrested the four rapists and Maafi. Puneeta’s family is waiting for justice to be done. But, justice is a mere word in Haryana, not necessarily concomitant with a crime like rape. After all, the state has the most skewed sex ratio in the country. There has to be something to that.

JITENDRA PRASAD, a leading social scientist, believes the reason for the increasing crimes against women in Haryana is the tendency to look down upon women. “The society here is so patriarchal and male-dominated that men are not ready to accept women as equals or even humans,” he says.

Prasad talks of the hypocrisy in the khap system. “Even the khap panchayats have maintained double standards in matters relating to women,” he adds. “While they strictly oppose same gotra marriages, they are at the same time silent when people rape women within their own families. There are only 830 girls for every 1,000 boys here. The skewed sex ratio is certainly one of the reasons for the increasing rapes, but the bigger reason is the social attitude. Women are seen as objects of consumption that are available to be used and silenced if they protest. This situation is convenient for the people here and that is why they won’t let it change.” A very disturbing observation, but one that rings true.

Khap panchayats have recently pressed on lowering the age limit of marriage to 16 years. Their argument is that early marriage will help young people fulfill their sexual desires and hence, rapes will not happen. A view that has shockingly found an echo in the words of former chief minister and INLD leader, Om Prakash Chautala, who compared 21st century India to the medieval age of Mughal rulers. “Even during the Mughal era, girls were married off at a very young age to protect them from rapes,” said Chautala.

Rapes have almost doubled in Haryana in the past seven years. From 386 cases in 2004, it has jumped to 733 in 2011

Suneeta Tyagi, who runs Samta Moolak Mahila Sangthan, an NGO in Gohana, says raping women is a way of life in Haryana. “Although Gohana (the town where 19-year-old Puneeta was raped for five days) is a small town of Sonipat district, rapes are very common here,” she says. “Last year in May, a first year law student was gangraped near her college campus, the Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyala of Khanpur Kalan. The main reason behind such incidents is the callous attitude that men have towards women. People rape women fearlessly while the police is completely absent from the scene.”

Tyagi adds that much of it has to do with the political pressure that police undergo and the compulsions of serving in a patriarchal society. “The administration and police keep mum because they are always under political pressure. Everybody in Gohana is politically connected with some big-shot politician. Support from the khaps further boosts their morale. Everybody believes here that they can easily get away after raping a woman. In most cases, the accused forces the victim to compromise and keep her mouth shut,” adds Tyagi.

Although Gohana DSP Yashpal Khatana rubbishes all these charges, what he offers as an explanation for the frequency of rapes is deeply disturbing. “Girls are easily influenced these days,” says the DSP. “They wear western clothes, so the number of gangrapes is increasing here.” The chowmein argument somehow begins to make sense now. After all, this is one of the keepers of law talking.

Latest figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) confirm Haryana’s notoriety in crimes against women. In the past seven years, the number of rape cases in Haryana has almost doubled. From 386 rape cases in 2004, it jumped to 733 cases in 2011, with only 13 percent convictions. This lack of fear among perpetrators has combined with the fear among victims to create Haryana’s spiralling rape epidemic.

Besides, there’s always the inaction of the state police and their subservience to panchayats. “It saves them the pain of doing an investigation and our village also does not get a bad name,” says Daljit Singh, Sarpanch of Dhani Pirawala village near Hisar, where a 14-year-old was raped in February this year. “Whoever is guilty will be punished, but if the boy is not guilty and the girl is known to sleep around with many men, then we do not encourage a police investigation.”

Local police officials’ attitude towards victims does not help matters either. In the Bhuna Police Station of Fatehabad district, Sub-Inspector Praveen Singh sits in a spotless white kurta pyjama. Looking more like a panchayat leader than a policeman, Singh’s attitude reflects the same apathy seen in Gohana DSP Yashpal Khatana. “How can you rape a woman forcibly when she doesn’t want it?” asks Singh. “Most cases we get here are motivated. Recently, a woman came and complained that her husband’s brother had raped her. I wonder what her husband was doing when she was being raped? When we went to investigate, all three of them had jumped into the canal and committed suicide. Now, how are we to take such cases seriously?”

Wise old men? Panchayat members in Durjanpur village of Jind district

The Bhuna Police Station has a particularly inglorious past. In 1999, long before Praveen had joined the force, in Khajuri village, Atma Ram, a landlord, along with his sons and drivers, brutally raped a woman for more than five months and kept her as a bonded labourer. This case attracted nationwide attention and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala had even called for imposition of President’s rule in the state. The police was forced to file an FIR almost three weeks after the incident came to light, but later dismissed the case saying it was motivated, that the Dalit woman had tried to frame the landlord because she was not given her share of the harvest for working on Atma Ram’s fields.

When TEHELKA visited Khajuri and tried to trace the victim Lalo Bai and her father, it was revealed that while she had died in 2000, her father had been driven out of the village. Atma Ram turned out to be the richest man in the village with a mansion and farmhouses in various locations. In Khajuri, as across Haryana’s villages, approaching the police against the mighty and the powerful seems a deadly option. It’s much better to simply suffer in horrific silence.

MANY BELIEVE that a regressive mindset, coupled with police indifference and panchayat interference, has ensured that deterrence against rape will not work in Haryana. “Police always lodges the FIR. After that, when we arrest the perpetrators, the panchayat intervenes and presses for an out-of-court settlement,” says Saurabh Singh, SP, Jind. “If the case somehow reaches the courts, then witnesses from the village turn hostile. In some cases, witnesses whose statements were recorded before the magistrate do not even turn up for the first hearing under pressure from the panchayats,” he adds.

In the much-publicised 9 September Dabra rape case, (Dalit girl. Gangraped. Filmed. by Soumik Mukherjee, 6 October), where a 16-year-old Dalit girl was gangraped by a dozen upper caste Jat men, one of the accused, Sunil alias Gharsi, had the complete backing of the village panchayat. The panchayat leaders are believed to have even met the IGP AS Chawla to get an assurance that “their boy” would not be prosecuted. On being refused, a crowd blocked the Funwara Chowk in Hisar. Later, when Sunil was paraded before the girl in the Test Identification Parade (TIP), she even refused to identify him.

In every panchayat one hears an axiom narrated with pride by the landlords: “If a Jat has not had sex with his siri’s (farm labour’s) wife and daughter, then he is not worthy of calling himself a Jat.” A very telling commentary on the prevailing mindset in the state.

Adds Anju, who works with the AIDWA in Rohtak: “A 15-year-old girl was gangraped in a nearby kacchi gadhi locality of Rohtak. Her family was involved in the crime. The situation is so bad that no woman can think of venturing out in the city after 6 pm. Men know that women cannot refuse, cannot defy. A woman has no other option but to accept whatever is done to her. Men here know that the cops and politicians are with them, so they just rape women. Use them and then throw them away. The whole socio-political framework encourages crime against women, protects criminals and burdens the victim with the responsibility of the violence done to her. Although this happens to Dalit women more, no one is really safe here.”

Seems like, in Haryana, to be a woman is to be the worst kind of Dalit — the kind that was born to be raped.

Sai Manish is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.


*Names of all rape victims have been changed to protect their identities



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October 2022
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