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Volume XLIV, No.48

A Year after the Mau Riots

by Shahira Naim

Tuesday 24 April 2007

The following pieces recently appeared in The Tribune. They are being combined and reproduced, with due acknowledgement, for the benefit of our readers. —Editor

Justice eludes Gang-rape Victims

Exactly a year has elapsed since the gruesome incident on October 15, 2005, when a daughter-mother duo was gang-raped amidst the frenzy of the Mau communal riots. Handing over the case to the CBI, the Allahabad High Court had declared, “It is not possible to expect a fair and impartial investiga-tion by the present prosecuting agency.”

Mr Justice Barkat Ali Zaidi in an order on September 21, 2006, had observed, “It seems the order of the High Court passed earlier, as noted above (order of March 30), has had no effect on the prosecuting agency and the Superintendent of Police, Mau, seems to have ignored the same.”
Severely indicting the investigating agency, the order further says, “In these circumstances, it is not possible to expect a fair and impartial investigation by the present prosecuting agency and it is necessary in the ends of justice that the matter be entrusted to a more responsible and independent agency so that justice may not be scuttled.”

The SP of Mau had been directed to “take steps for the protection of the two applicants and their family members, until the proceedings terminate”.
Mr Justice Zaidi’s order had also reproduced the earlier High Court order by Mr Justice Vinod Prasad of March 30, 2005, on petition No. 3310 of year 2006 in which the 15-year-old applicant had charged the investigating officer of conniving with the accused and trying to protect them by not recording her statement under Section 164 of the Cr P.C.

Nothing happened and six months later Mr Justice Zaidi in the strongly worded six-page order notes that in the FIR “names of persons who committed the carnage have been specially enumerated but till today after a lapse of nine months only one person out of 15 has been arrested”.
Another 23 days had passed since Mr Justice Zaidi’s order yet the CBI had not started its investigation. The Director, CBI, had been asked to submit a progress report to the High Court “after 60 days so that this court may monitor the progress”.

Speaking to The Tribune, Mau SP Ashutosh Kumar, who took over charge barely a month ago, said the CBI team was expected to visit Mau on October 16. According to the SP, the survivors had been provided police protection as ordered by the latest High Court order. “We have placed women constables there,” he informed.

The FIR in the case was lodged by a Class X survivor of the gang rape. A resident of Mohalla Rahzania under the Kotwali Police Station of Mau, in the FIR she had narrated the sequence of events of that fateful afternoon of October 15 when a mob of around 100 persons armed with knives, lathis and hockeys on a looting and burning spree gang-raped her and her mother.
When some of the rioters were going to kill the father, the mother fell over her husband requesting the rioters to spare him. However, the rioters not only hit the mother with an iron rod, but also they fractured the leg of the father with a hockey, brutally beat up the brother and tore off the clothes of the applicant.

Then eight persons “had forcible intercourse” with the 15-year-old girl “under threats of killing her”. The FIR lists them as Sudarshan of Chhoti Rahzania, Chhotey Lal, Manoj of Bari Rahzania, Ram Prasad, Om Chandra, Budh Ram, Ram Chandra of Mohalla Nawapura Ali Nagar and Triveni Sunar of Munshi Pura.

Later, the FIR continues, seven persons gang-raped the crying mother before the very eyes of the 15-year-old. The culprits had not only been named in the FIR but also been described by their profession.

They are Rajesh, driver of Badi Kamharia, Kedar of Navapura line, Khadthu of Badi Kamaria, who owns a floor mill in Ali Nagar, Prahlad of Ali Nagar, who installs pumping machines, Nagal of Navapura, who runs a tea and pakauri shop, Dr Pintoo Kumar of Navapura Ali Nagar, who runs a clinic, and Rabhu Nath Chauhan of Kamharia. A year has gone by. Despite two High Court orders justice still eludes the mother and daughter, who dared to raise their voice.

BJP fields Rape Accused in Mau Civic Poll

Going by the banners and posters visible all over this riot-marred city, Triveni Prasad, the BJP candidate for the post of Chairman in the Nagar Palika elections, is way ahead of his rivals. He is one of the 15 accused in the gang rape of a woman and her teenaged daughter during the riots. The police, however, claim that he has not been arrested even after a year of the incident as the proof is still being collected to confirm his address.

Handing over the case to the CBI, the Allahabad High Court in its order of 21 September 21, 2006, had declared, “In these circumstances, it is not possible to expect a fair and impartial investigation by the present prosecuting agency and it is necessary in the ends of justice that the matter be entrusted to a more responsible and independent agency so that justice may not be scuttled.”

On October 16, a two-member CBI team comprising of a Deputy Superintendent of Police and an Inspector were in the city on a preliminary visit. Speaking to this reporter CO (City) Vinod Kumar Pandey confirmed that the CBI team had collected photocopies of all the documents relating to the case as well as the case diary. As the present SP Ashutosh Kumar was in Lucknow on official duty, Pandey was officiating and in-charge of liaison with the CBI.

Visibly relieved at not having to explain the questionable role of the district police in the case any longer, Pandey was quick to inform that now the case is with the CBI and no one is investigating it from their side any more.
Looking at the sequence of events it is clear that the district police tried to show some action on its part, at least on paper after September 21 when the indicting High Court order came.

On September 29, the police issued orders for the attachment of the properties of 10 of the 15 accused named in the FIR filed by the 15-year-old rape victim.

Those whose property was to be attached are Chhotey Lal, Manoj, Ram Prasad, Om Chandra, Ram Chandra, Rajesh (driver), Kedar, Khadthu a flourmill owner, Prahlad, who installs pumping machines and Nagal who runs a tea shop.

CO Pandey points out the preoccupation of the police with Dussehra, Durga Puja and the Bharat Milap as the cause of the police not being able to proceed in attaching the properties during the intervening 17 days before the case was finally handed over to the CBI.

According to the police records, two of the accused—Sudarshan and Rabhunath Chauhan—are already in jail. Sudarshan who was reportedly arrested during the riots was charge sheeted on May 9, 2006. The police claim that the other accused surrendered and was chargesheeted on August 8.

Now the piece de resistance. The police record shows that three of the remaining 15 accused described as Triveni Sunar of Munshipura, Budh Ram and Dr Pintoo Kumar r/o Navapura Ali Nagar who runs a doctor’s shop are nowhere to be found as their names and addresses cannot be confirmed.
When reminded that the man was contesting the local body election on the symbol of a national political party, the police clarifies that there is a slight discrepancy in the name. While the FIR names him as Triveni Sunar his name is actually Triveni Prasad, the local police maintain.

The fact that Triveni Prasad belongs to a family of ‘sunars’—traditionally engaged in the goldsmith business—and very much resides in the Munshipura locality mentioned in the FIR, elicit silence from the police.
The case has been shuffled between four investigating officers and three SPs during the past one year before it was finally handed over to the CBI this week. This has ensured that no single police official is familiar with all the facts of the case.

Speaking off the record, a senior district officer confesses that the no progress has been made in the case for fear of recurrence of communal violence. According to this officer, when the college-going son of Triveni Prasad was murdered on August 3 this year, allegedly on the orders of his girlfriend’s brother, the city once again started burning as the BJP fanned the flames by projecting it as a political murder.

The officer admitted, “Maintaining law and order was the district administration’s first priority. And that is exactly what the force has been doing for the past one year. Why single out this case, none of the cases registered after the riots have made much progress for fear of disturbing the communally volatile atmosphere.”

However, Munna Dubey, the BJP district Vice-President, and Triveni Prasad’s election manager, flatly denies both the charges leveled against his candidate. “Triveni Prasad’s son was murdered for political reasons. This has brought him immense sympathy which is helping us in the election.”
Dismissing the charge of gang rape against the BJP candidate, Dubey maintains, “It is nothing new for people to fabricate such baseless charges against their political opponents.”

Substantiating his stand, Dubey asserts that if the charges had been serious the police would have come to investigate. “Till now the police has not come even once to enquire into the case,” he claimed, virtually confirming the Allahabad High Court’s apprehension.

Meanwhile, as loudspeakers blare across the city calling upon the citizens to elect Triveni Prasad as the new Chairman of the Mau Nagar Palika Parishad on October 31, the rape victims, now living in a one-room rented house in the bylanes of Raghunathpura, recoil in fear and are dreading the worse.

Raped by Rioters and Harassed by Police

“The women who came in yesterday scared us. They demanded chairs to be laid out for them, ordered us to make tea and scolded me for going out of my house to relieve myself without seeking their permission,” said the mother of five, who had been gang-raped in front of her teenaged daughter, during the Mau riots last year.

The rape survivor was incidentally describing the behaviour of two women police personnel posted at the family’s rented one room shelter in the congested Raghunathpura locality.

The two women police finally showed up for the first time on October 16, the day the case was handed over to the CBI. This came following the Allahabad High Court order of September 21 directing the SP Mau to “take steps for the protection of the two applicants and their family members until the proceedings terminate”.

The family was so traumatised by the behaviour of the women police that they considered contacting their lawyer requesting for the withdrawal of police protection.

The teenaged daughter refusing to ignore the gang rape of her and her mother on the afternoon of October 15, 2006, decided to secretly write a letter narrating the entire incident to a member of the Markazi Relief Committee, a people’s peace initiative for supervising relief, rehabilitation, legal and medical assistance during and after the riots.

Talking to The Tribune, she said most of the 15 men named in the FIR were familiar faces, as she had seen them around her house in Rahzania or while going to school in Munshipura. This is the same locality where the most influential BJP aspirant for the Chairman’s post, Triveni Prasad, lives.

Her mother says, “We were poor but could still manage as my husband worked on the loom and I on the sewing machine. Now my family’s income has been halved to Rs 70 a day. My husband has still not recovered from his injuries suffered during the riots.”

While the daughter has managed to get her statement recorded, the police are still dodging around to record her mother’s statement.

SP Ashutosh Kumar said over the phone that the mother was refusing to get her statement recorded because of community pressure.

The husband Mohammad Muslim, a weaver, still cannot go back to work. Eight steel bolts had to be inserted inside him to join the bone fractured by the frenzied mob raining hockey sticks.

All he received as compensation from the state government was Rs 18,000 for his house, loom and sewing machine that were looted and set ablaze by the rioters.

However, the Markazi Relief Committee came to his assistance. They footed his medical bill of Rs 20,000. The committee also replaced his loom and his wife’s sewing machine.

The wife is now single-handedly working to feed a family of seven, including five children, four of them school-going.

After repeatedly refusing to lodge the daughter’s complaint, the then SP Sujit Pandey finally accepted her FIR more than a month after the incident took place.

The case being shifted to the CBI has brought this family some hope of justice but the increasing chances of Triveni Prasad becoming the city’s next Chairman fills them with dread.

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