It's been two days since a 20-year Dalit girl died following allegedly frequent police harassment. Hope you read the morning papers and are aware about her ordeals, by now.
If you have read the details, you wouldn't have missed the fact that she was a Dalit. At the same time, you would know her world fell apart ever since she tried lodging a case against the son of your party member. But in case, you have missed the facts, we narrate the story of Meena (name changed). Hopefully this will move you take some action.
Meena passed away on 9 May. She bore tell-tale signs of being whipped and had been arrested four times, after she accused a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader's son of allegedly abducting and raping her.
This is not the first time that the police force in the state has been embroiled in a controversy. From the state police chief Jagmohan Yadav stating in December 2015 that rapes were a common phenomenon in all states and that the police is unable to "completely stop crimes against women", to allegations that it helped destroy documents that could have proved the involvement of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) in the Hashimpura massacre of 1987, the UP police force has seen it all.
The latest case to shine the spotlight on the state's police machinery, yet again, is that of a woman who had alleged that the son of a BSP leader abducted and raped her in December 2014. After which, she was jailed three times and suffered fatal injuries when the police arrested her a fourth time, on 29 April. That the Dalit woman died due to the injuries has only complicated matters.
From acquaintance to 'rapist'
The deceased was the daughter of Ramdas Lal, who was a worker at a brick kiln owned by BSP leader Mahendra Katiyar. Both families were familiar with each other, with the BSP leader and his son Gurdeep, being frequent visitors to the Lal household.
On 3 December, 2014, Gurdeep along with one unidentified person went to the deceased's house to inquire about her father's whereabouts. She told Gurdeep he had gone to Gursahaiganj, upon which the accused asked her to accompany him in his car so that they can go to her father.
The deceased accompanied him. However, she was then taken to an isolated area and allegedly raped by Gurdeep and his aide. After hearing the deceased's cries, some locals spotted the car and informed the police.
Police reaches the spot, but takes no action
According to the deceased's father, the police reached the spot and took the two accused and his daughter to the Kamalganj police station. The victim gave a written complaint, but the police allegedly refused to lodge the First Information Report (FIR) and assured her of lodging it the next day.
'Life lost due to atrocities'
Four hours after the girl had gone to the police to register the case, it is alleged that the police - under the influence of Mahendra Katiyar - lodged a complaint filed by Gurdeep that the deceased had stolen two cellphones, a pistol and a wallet from him.
This time the police didn't waste any time in upholding the law. The woman was arrested an hour later and sent to judicial custody.
She got bail in March but was arrested again under the gangster act, imposed on the basis of Gurdeep's complaint. Police said she was a "lady don", affiliated to a gangster.
However, the woman never lost hope. While she was in prison, on 16 January, 2015, she moved an application registering a case against the accused to a local court in Kannauj district. Following the appeal, the court ordered the police to investigate the case properly and lodge an FIR.
On 14 April, 2015, the police registered a case against the accused under Section 376 (D) (rape by one or more persons) of the IPC and 3(2) 5 SC/ST Act. According to the complaint, the police didn't take the girl for a medical examination and her statement wasn't recorded under 164 Crpc (statement before a magistrate).
Irked with the woman's determination, the accused, allegedly with the help of the police, lodged a third case against the woman. This time, she was booked for blackmailing and intimidation.
"Taking the matter to higher authorities proved fatal"
Speaking to Catch on conditions of anonymity, a police officer said, "After coming out on bail for the third time, the woman took the matter to higher authorities in Kanpur. Somebody informed the Kamalganj police about her move and this proved fatal for her."
On 29 April, 2016, the victim had gone to meet Neelabja Chowdhary, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Kanpur. After hearing out her ordeal, Chowdhary ordered an inquiry.
Why is the police under the scanner?
Hours after she met the DIG, she was arrested, yet again. This time she was arrested on the charge of possessing 500 grams of charas, a narcotic.
In his complaint, the deceased's father has alleged that she was brutally tortured in police custody and when she couldn't bear the pain and her condition deteriorated, the police took her to the magistrate's house around midnight to place her in judicial remand. She could not be sent to jail, and as a result the police took her to LLR Hospital in Kanpur.
The police, on the other hand, dismissed all allegations, claiming that the woman jumped out of a moving jeep.
However, what the police has failed to explain is why was she was produced before a magistrate at night, without the family being informed? According to a Supreme Court ruling, a woman cannot be arrested after sunset and before sunrise
According to sources, the woman slipped into coma on 4 May. But her statement was not recorded by any magistrate when she was in her senses. Her body bore tell-tale signs of being whipped.
The woman succumbed to her injuries on 9 May, in the general ward of the government hospital.
According to doctors, the woman had an injury on the right side of the head as well as the front, which led to clotting in the brain and swelling.
Too little too late...
Speaking to Catch, Zaki Ahmad, Inspector General of Police, Kanpur Zone said, "The matter is being investigated and we can't say what exactly the case is. But we have suspended Kamalganj Inspector Saligram Verma."
Catch tried to reach out to Rakesh Krishna, Superintendent of Police, Farukkhabad, but he didn't respond to our calls.
According to police sources, a case of murder will likely be registered against Verma. Five more police officers have been suspended as well. However, an official announcement will be made later.
Mayawati please speak up
It's interesting how eager politicians are to take up a cause when the stakes aren't high for them. You spoke about Rohith Vemula's rights and rightly so. But your silence on Meena's death when the kin of your party member seems to be involved, is appalling.
Did you not see how promptly JD(U) acted against its MLC Manorama Devi after her son Rocky Yadav was accused of killing a teenage boy, Aditya Sachdeva? How difficult is it to take up cudgels for a Dalit girl for someone who takes pride in being called a Dalit icon?