Much before the December 16, 2012, gang rape of a medical student in Delhi led to national outrage, the rape of a Dalit teenager in Dabra village, some distance from Hisar town in western Haryana, resulted in a popular public movement. The girl, then 16, was travelling in an autorickshaw to her grandmother’s house in Hisar town when some men in a Bolero stopped the auto, pulled her out and drove off.
Interestingly, unlike the Delhi rape case, it was 3.30pm when the class 12 student was taken to a secluded spot and raped. Her rapists filmed the incident and took photographs on their mobiles before dropping her at the spot fromwhere they had abducted her. “I did not tell anyone at home of what had happened. I was afraid how my father would react,” she said.
Her father, however, got to know of the rape in the worst manner possible. “The rapists, who were from the same village, began selling her photographs and clips for Rs200 and someone showed them to her father,” says Rajat Kalsal, her lawyer. Unable to deal with the trauma, her father committed suicide. When the police began investigating his unnatural death, it blew the lid off the gang rape.
An FIR was lodged on September 19 — 10 days after the rape on September 9, 2012.
The case became a political hot potato because the girl was a Dalit from the Chamar caste and most of those she had named in the FIR were Jats. “We organised dharnas, demanding that the rapists be arrested or we would not allow the victim’s father to be cremated,” says Shakuntala Jakher, member of All India Democratic Women’s Association.
Baljeet Singh, son of a Jat landlord, was arrested three days later followed by seven others. “There were 12 persons involved. But when I was filing the FIR, only eight names were taken down. I was in not even in proper state to realise what was written,” she said, alleging that the police tried to shield the upper-caste rapists.
The media and the political storm that ensued ensures that the trial was fast-tracked and a verdict pronounced eight months later in May 2013. The sessions court judge Madhu Khanna Lalli acquitted four of the accused, citing lack of evidence, and awarded life terms to the other four. “The four acquitted are from sound economically backgrounds,” says Jakher.
The girl’s lawyer, Lal Bahadur Khowal, has filed a private petition in the high court against the acquittal. “I got around Rs2.5 lakh from the state government, but most of it has been spent on my lawyers’ fees and treatment,” the girl said. She suffers from intense stomach pain, the result of a recurring infection, and depression. “We were also promised government jobs, but it has not materialised. My mother works on a daily-wage basis with an NGO, which pays around Rs6,000 a month. That is our only source of income.”
The family, including her brother, had to move to Hisar because Dabra had become unsafe for them, especially after the police protection was withdrawn. They live in a one-room tenement given by her mother’s employer. “There was intense pressure from the villagers and the Khap to drop the case. Money was also offered,” said Kalsal. The girl is pursuing her BA. She intends to follow it with a law degree and “fight for girls like her who have no one to turn to”.