On a day when BJP workers clashed with policemen and water cannons as they marched towards the heavily-guarded residence of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow, both the union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju and union cabinet minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi expressed their shock at the handling of the Badaun gang-rape and murder case.
The Akhilesh government shifted principal secretary (home) Anil Kumar Gupta in the aftermath of the strident attack on the state government over the incident which also triggered street protests by BJP women activists.
Rijiju asked the UP state government why was the SC/ST Act not slapped against the accused in the case. "The law is there. It is to protect the SCs and STs from atrocities. It was a clear case of atrocity on a weaker section of the society. We do not know why the state government has not slapped it (clauses) against the accused," said the minister. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) 1989 seeks to abolish untouchability and prevent atrocities and offences against SCs and STs by providing for stringent punishment, and by providing the relief and rehabilitation of victims of these offences.
However, the UP home department clarified its stand claiming the victims did not belong to the said scheduled caste.
"The caste of the victims does not attract the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act," IG, law and order Amrendra Sengar here said.
"There is no confusion at the district level in this matter as the caste of the victims does not come under the scheduled caste or tribe," the official said.
Maneka Gandhi said that the case has shocked the government and that the rape crisis cells will come up across the country. "The Badaun case has shocked the government, we have taken this case very seriously. This case is the number one priority for us. We will be constructing rape crisis centres in districts which will have the provision of medical aid, legal aid, police aid and ambulance as well. Funds to the tune of Rs 500 crore have been allotted and these centres will be ready by end of this year," she said.
Meanwhile, National Commission for Woman said it will summon the Uttar Pradesh police chief to ask what his force is doing to prevent increase in rape cases there and observed that fear of police in the state has diminished and goons were ruling the roost.
"So many gangrapes are happening. I am issuing a notice to the DGP. I will summon him and ask what police are doing," NCW chief Mamta Sharma told reporters in New Delhi.
Asked whether the DGP would have to personally appear before the Commission, she said, "Yes, summon means he will be called to the office," adding he will be asked about action taken to check increasing incidents of rape in the state.
A delegation of members of the All India Democratic Women's Association, that visited Badaun and interacted with villagers in the area, alleged that atrocities on the poor by the rich and dominant Yadav communities have become more pronounced in the ruling Samajwadi Party's regime. They also alleged that the complicity of the police, most of whom were also from the dominant communities, had led to several cases, most of which remained unregistered with the police.
"We suspect the girls were alive till the time the parents and a group of 15-20 villagers went out at around 5am to the district collector's office in Badaun. On their way, they were directed to a mangrove by a police officer, where both the girls were found hanging by the tree," said secretary Sehba Farooqui, who was part of the delegation. "Most of these farmers work in the fields owned by the upper castes, and barely earn Rs 100 per day. They need that amount to travel to Badaun alone. How will the stand up to the might of the rich dominant communities? Also, the transformer in the village had stopped working a week before the incident, and nothing was done despite repeated complaints. Atrocities against women in the dark is commonplace in these areas."
AIDWA has also demanded that instead of charging the accused policemen in the case with Section 120B of the IPC, which amount to abettment to the gang-rape and murder, Section 166A should be invoked in the case. "The father of one of the victims has alleged that they found a policeman at the house of the accused, where they believe that the incident took place. So, the suspension or termination from service does not do much, because the accused will be free in no time. We demand that there be a fair trial," said Farooqui.
—With inputs from agencies