Fearing retaliation from the families of the three men accused of raping their 16-year-old daughter, the family from Baghpat Saturday said they will send their daughter to live with relatives in another village.
“We are scared that the accused or their relatives might attack her again because we lodged a complaint with the police,” said the victim’s mother, who fled from her Baghpat home along with her family after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
On the basis of a complaint lodged by the minor’s family, an FIR had been registered against Shahrukh (23), Zulfam (45) and Junaid (25) on charges of gangrape and under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. On Friday, the police arrested Shahrukh and produced him in court, which sent him to judicial custody.
Naresh Pal Singh, the Station Officer at Kandhla Police Station, said the 16-year-old was allegedly raped by Zulfam in a sugarcane field when she was returning home after helping her mother collect cattle feed on Wednesday. He then let her go after warning her not to tell anyone. “When she was returning home, Junaid, who owns a dairy, and his associate Shahrukh dragged her into the dairy and raped her. Her father lodged a complaint the next day. A case was registered and Shahrukh arrested. Junaid and Zulfam are absconding,” Singh said.
There are around 200 native Gujjar Muslim families living in the village where the girl’s family moved last year after the riots. The Gujjar families are a landowning class, while the riot-affected families are landless Sheikhs who work as labourers in neighbouring settlements in the district.
Defending Zulfam, his brother Phulgam said, “Zulfam is a responsible man. He has children and a home. He has fought elections. He will never stoop to doing something like this. He had gone to the dairy because Junaid’s father summoned him for help about a girl who was found there. He has nothing to do with the crime.”
Stressing that it was a conspiracy to malign them, Phulgam said, “We have been helping them (riot victims) with money and aid. They come and cut their grass and fodder using our machines. In fact, the girl’s brother owes us money we had earlier lent him.” But the girl’s family alleged that Zulfam’s family has been pressuring them to broker a compromise.
The girl’s brother said, “We came to this village because around 10 other riot-hit families also moved and settled here. We thought we will be safe because we are living among our Muslim brothers. But this happened. We know we will not be safe or welcome here anymore. We are planning to move to a house on the main road near the police station.”