In 2017, a teenager belonging to Makhi police station area in Unnao alleged that Kuldeep Sengar, a four-time MLA who represents Bangermau in the UP assembly, had raped her at his home. No one paid heed till the victim allegedly attempted self-immolation outside the Chief Minister’s residence. When the victim’s kin complained, her father was booked by the police under the Arms Act on April 3, 2018, and put in jail where he died after being allegedly beaten up by the brother of the MLA and his aides while in prison. In a letter dated July 12, the mother and sisters of the Unnao rape survivor alleged that they were being threatened repeatedly by the accused, with dire consequences and implication in false cases, if they did not back off or withdraw the case. Also pending is a transfer petition filed by the victim’s mother to transfer the trial to Delhi since the accused is in a position of power and can influence the outcome of the case.

As if this were not enough, last Sunday, the car in which the victim was travelling with her two aunts and her lawyer, was hit by a truck with a blackened licence plate, and when the security personnel assigned for her protection were curiously absent. The aunts, one of whom was a witness in the case, were killed, and the victim and her lawyer grievously injured. As I write this, the victim has been put on ventilator support and is critical. A newspaper report states that not a single person from the village approached the family to pay their last respects, pointing to the complete isolation of the beleaguered family by a terrorised and fearful neighbourhood intimidated into minding its own business. Given the sequence of events and the sustained harassment of the victim, obviously encouraged by the deliberate inaction of the law keepers, who seem committed to protecting their flock and their vote banks, who would dare to take up cudgels on behalf of the victim?

What can be more shocking and shameful than the glaring fact that such despicable crimes and the succeeding events designed to derail the process of justice are being allowed to happen in one of the largest democracies in the world

Sadly, we have time and again failed the victims of such heinous crimes. The frequency of rapes and other violent crimes against women, the oft-reported reluctance of the police to take cognisance of the crime, the delay in filing a report, the power play and caste politics that subvert justice, the fairly common complicity of the powers that be with the accused, the continuous persecution of the victims and their supporters, and the seeming futility of demonstrationsand outcries have succeeded in muting us, giving rise to a cynicism that does not bode well for a democratic nation. What can be more shocking and shameful than the glaring fact that such despicable crimes and the succeeding events designed to derail the process of justice are being allowed to happen in one of the largest democracies in the world, with a population of 133.92 crores! That too in full view.

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This impotence is a sure harbinger of troubled times, where no victim will have the courage to protest or complain knowing that it could be a lone battle and helplessness a constant companion. Those seeking justice can raise their voices only when backed by a strong collective empowering force, an empathic society that is willing to hand-hold and bolster the victim’s spirit right up to the verdict, and if required, thereafter too, a potent press that keeps up the pressure and a judicial system that ensures that there is no travesty of justice. Whether it’s the Nirbhaya case, the Kathua case, the Khairlanji case and now the Unnao case, (not to mention those that haven’t received coverage or have gone unreported), it’s only collective outrage and an unbroken call for action that can ensure justice.

Those seeking justice can raise their voices only when backed by a strong collective empowering force, an empathic society that is willing to hand-hold and bolster the victim’s spirit right up to the verdict, and if required, thereafter too.

Today, the Unnao rape survivor has lost many of her close kin to the sinister attempts to destroy her. It would be a shame if we lose her to a blatant disregard for the laws of the land, an audacious, sickening attempt to silence her, emboldened by an administration for which a human life can be demeaned and sacrificed at the altar of other tangible benefits. If she survives the accident, and I send out a prayer as I write this, it’s going to be a long, hard, and I surmise, lonely battle. I wonder what would be more painful for this aggrieved young girl. The horror of the rape and subsequent intimidation by the alleged accused, the calculated indolence of the state, or the abandonment by the neighbourhood where she grew up, or the apathy of society? I shudder to think of the answer, and I plead guilty.

Picture Credit: VK Singh and Company

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Archana Pai Kulkarni is the Books Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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