When your entire system fails

Gurbachan Jagat

A Dalit lady and her 19-year-old daughter go to the fields near their home to bring fodder for the cattle. After some time, the two drift apart and the mother starts searching for her daughter in the tall crop — she finds her, but it is the naked, bleeding and broken body of her daughter. The girl’s spine and other parts are broken and she is barely alive. With the son driving the motorcycle, the lady on the pillion and the daughter wedged in between, they set out for the police station. How they managed to carry her on a motorcycle defies my imagination — anyhow, they reach the police station and after one glance they’re told to go to the District Hospital at Hathras. No paper work is done, no FIR lodged, no entry in the daily diary. At the District Hospital, they are told to take her to Aligarh. How do they go? Does the hospital offer an ambulance?

They somehow manage to reach Aligarh and after a few agonising days are told to take her to Safdarjung in Delhi. Mercifully, after a short time, she dies — all this while, the state sleeps… the police, the panchayat, the DM, the media… all are asleep. A girl being raped, abused and broken was not enough to awaken the state, whose primary sworn duty is the security of its ‘citizens’. What critical matter of state was the local administration involved in that such a heinous crime was ignored? What should have happened from the beginning: the sarpanch, who is the representative of the local government, should have accompanied the victim to the police station and insisted on filing of a report. If not the sarpanch, the hospital should have arranged for an ambulance to take them to Aligarh and the police should have accompanied them to record the statements of the girl and her mother. It was the duty of the police, the hospital and the sarpanch to have followed up at Aligarh and ensured proper treatment, got her medico-legal examination done and shifted her to Delhi earlier. Simultaneously, the police should have gone to the village and started the investigation of this most heinous crime and rounded up the accused as the girl had named four of them. The sub-division police officers and the District Magistrate should have visited the village and the hospital immediately after the crime. The District Magistrate claimed to be blissfully unaware, even though he’s in charge of law and order — none of these actions were taken although these are mandated by law and departmental rules. The crime scene should have been preserved for the forensics team. Samples of soil and blood, clothes, hair and under the nail tests for DNA should have been done. Where were the clothes? They had to be taken into possession for semen samples, etc. Was all this done?

However, now you will see how promptly the state operates to save its skin and the skin of the upper caste accused. They descended upon Delhi and took the body in their possession, leaving the family to fend for itself and started driving to the village. The state now realised the potency of the Dalit girl’s ‘death’ and the harm that could do to their beloved government. The family somehow follows and reaches the village, whereupon the body remains with the police, who promise an early morning cremation. However, the cremation is done at 2:30 am, under the cover of darkness (like all major current police activities, encounters carried out in the great state of UP). The family is not allowed to witness it, not even one last look.

The media starts to move in wanting a piece of the action, the Opposition parties start to move in. The police throw multi-tier cordons. The orders are simple — no media, no Opposition politicians, nobody from outside should be allowed even near the village or to meet the family. UP Police do the bandobast very efficiently, after all their arrangements at the massive Kumbh Mela are flawless. The DM is in charge, the SP is there, people from Lucknow are there — stars and stripes galore. To cut a long story short, a few leaders are allowed to visit the family. The family does not say much because the DM has suitably briefed them that the media and others will go away, whereas he is the local ‘Hakam’ and they will have to deal with him. The state has suspended some police officers (there is always an assurance in such cases of proper rehabilitation after some time) and promises the guilty will be punished in an exemplary manner. Why does the DM escape suspension?

The upper caste villagers say their boys are innocent and the Additional DGP (no less) says there has been no rape… an efficient cover-up has begun. A citizen of India was raped, abused and broken, she was then abandoned by the state and finally a ‘citizen’ of India was cremated in the absence of the family at night. We have treated our enemies better in the past. But does this poor Dalit girl qualify to be a ‘citizen’?

The entire criminal justice system failed, as in other cases. The entire system is now run by parties in power, personified by the Chief Minister. All power vests in them and the SP, DM, judges are merely pawns who are eager to perform forward and back flips if they can to achieve the objective. The police now have the gumption to say there was no rape and quote medico-legal reports to buttress their case. The ML was done 11 days after the incident — what was it expected to show? What does the police investigation show? Has there been an investigation at all? When was the FIR recorded? When were the case diaries written? Did any supervising officer visit the spot? Did the forensic experts examine the crime scene? Did a copy of the FIR and copies of case diaries reach the judicial magistrate in the prescribed time? Did the DM ensure that the prosecution branch was monitoring the investigation and did he himself keep a watch on the police investigation? I’m sure that nothing was done as per laid-down laws and rules and backdated entries will now be made. The system has been completely subverted by politicians.

Forgetting all of the above, the statement of the victim alleging rape and naming the accused is a dying declaration — why are the government and police shying away from admitting this? Anyway, the state has washed its hands of the case and recommended that the CBI investigate it, and that is a story for another day. I shall not prejudge the investigation but past performance does not inspire too much confidence. Meanwhile, as Hathras turns into a major story, the media warriors have been redeployed from the SS Rajput case (where they tried to convert a suicide into a murder and Bollywood into a drug cartel). Now they both have come up with conspiracy theories at the international and national level being conducted to defame the UP government, the latest spin being that the accused are now the aggrieved and the aggrieved the accused. Seriously? Is this the result of an investigation or is it a source report? Where is the evidence on the file which will now be transferred to the CBI?

My dear lady from Hathras, what justice do you expect from the state? The DM was right, the Opposition parties and media will disappear, the DM and the ‘Daroga’ will be there and they will always listen to the dictates of Lucknow and not the Constitution, its law and rules. The time calls for another Gandhi, another Bhagat Singh, but will the lament of this family be answered? I will keep my hope in the old saying: ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man.’

— The writer is ex-chairman of UPSC, former Manipur Governor and served as J&K DGP

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