Muzaffarnagar remained tense Wednesday as a 40-year-old ASHA worker, allegedly raped by a 20-year-old last week, committed suicide after a video of the incident was circulated on WhatsApp by the accused.
Police said they are investigating the alleged incident. Muzaffarnagar SSP K B Singh said the woman or her husband never lodged a police complaint about the alleged rape. “Her husband filed a complaint only after her suicide, but he did not mention the time or date of the alleged crime,” said Singh.
He said the video appeared to have been shot in a field. He also claimed that call detail records of the woman and the accused suggested that they were in touch in the last two months.
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A fellow ASHA worker, who did not wish to be named, said the woman first met the accused, Shahid, when she visited his house three months ago while his sister-in-law was giving birth. According to the health worker, from that point on, the accused used to “block her way in the village and made advances at her”.
Hundreds of ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers from adjoining districts staged a protest and refused to cremate the woman’s body till the family was provided adequate compensation.
Muzaffarnagar MP and Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan visited the woman’s family in Chhapra in the evening, following which her body was cremated. “The district administration has given a meagre compensation of Rs 30,000 to the family. The woman ran the house as her husband is bedridden. They have three children. I have asked villagers to help the family and I, too, will personally help them,” Baliyan told The Indian Express.
The accused was arrested after an FIR was lodged by the victim’s husband at Purchhapar police station. He has been booked on charges of rape, abetment of suicide and the Information Technology Act.
“The accused was arrested late Tuesday night and, during initial interrogation, he admitted to raping the victim as well as circulating the video clip. He has been sent to judicial remand for 14 days,” said Pradeep Gupta, Superintendent of Police (City), Muzaffarnagar. “There is tension in the village. It also involves two communities, so it is a bit sensitive. We have ensured heavy police deployment,” he said.
The woman killed herself on Tuesday after visiting a local dispensary to get medicine for her 16-year-old son. She asked her son to return home on his own and said she would get back shortly. He went home with a neighbour. Later, a call on his father’s phone informed them that she had consumed poison near the marketplace. According to doctors, the woman, who consumed sulphas tablets, died during treatment.
The ASHA worker who knew the woman claimed that after the alleged rape, she “went into a state of shock”.
“A couple of days ago, when the 30-second video was circulated in the village, her children and husband got to know about the incident. But when her husband asked her about it, she refused to speak. She told me that everyone would blame her,” said the ASHA worker.
Station Officer of Purchhapar police station Bhanu Pratap Yadav confirmed that the victim died of poisoning and that she first met Shahid when his sister-in-law was giving birth.
Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Nikhil Chand Shukla, meanwhile, said he has sent a recommendation to the government to provide financial help to the woman’s family.