The two ostracized sisters from Rateu, 100 kms from Barmer town, gangraped by three neighbours on August 16, waited for hours outside the office of the Barmer superintendent of police Saturday with a petition seeking justice and action against caste panchayat members who decreed social boycott of the family. Having failed to meet the officer, the sisters and their father returned to their village Dhiranion ki Dhani late on Saturday preparing to come back yet again on Monday with the petition.
Even as two lady constables escort the girls, fear looms large on them. Heading back to their village, the school-goers aged 20 and 18, find themselves isolated and threatened by mounting pressure from the other villagers. “There will be no support even from the political leaders in the region as both the parties – the caste panchayat and we are from the same Jat community. The leaders will always go with the majority while our voice will be conveniently silenced,” said the 20-year-old victim.
Even as highly placed sources close to the investigation told the Indian Express that there has been political pressure to show leniency towards the accused, the police has made two arrests in the case so far.
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Barmer SP Hemant Sharma told the Indian Express, “We have arrested two of the accused, Girda Ram and Chatura Ram and are still probing the involvement of the third accused, Kanha Ram. In the investigation so far, Kanha Ram, seems in no way involved in the crime, though we are not giving him a clean chit yet. Prima facie it appears that the Kanha Ram, who had personal animosity with the family, is being falsely accused. We are probing all angles and are accessing call records and other details to put the jigsaw together.”
Sharma said that head constable Hari Ram has been suspended for not taking action on the first complaint filed by the victims against their uncle, Ram Chandra alias Ramji Ram, on August 16. “Had action been taken on the first complaint, the rapes might have been averted. It was on their way back home after filing the complaint that the incident took place,” Sharma added.
The victims’ family was ostracized by a 90-member caste panchayat in January last year after the victims’ two older siblings had murdered their cousin. The village elders had come out in support of the deceased’s family and socially boycotted the girls and their parents. While their parents shifted out to another village in Sheo where they reared cattle to be able to give their daughters an education, the girls continued to live in the village. On their way to school, they had to walk 5kms through fields owned by neighbours and their uncle, who objected to their free movement in the village despite the social boycott. The girls allege that when the three boys raped them, they said it was a punishment for not obeying the diktat.
Since the social boycott in January last year, the ostracized family has been denied basic facilities in the village such as ration, water from the common wells and jobs under MNREGA. In their petition to the SP on Saturday, they appealed that the ban be lifted so that they are able to live a normal life once again. Even as the SP and the district collector Bhanu Prakash Atru visited the locality on Friday on an official tour, nobody from the district administration has met the victims so far.
A case of attempt to rape was registered on August 17. The victims allege that the police constables refused to lodge a case of rape. “The members of the caste panchayat threatened us with dire consequences if we filed a rape case and instead offered to lift the social boycott if we paid Rs. 20 lakhs,” said the elder sister.
It was only after the victims appeared before Sharma on August 20 that gangrape charges were appended to the initial complaint. While the victims now await due compensation from the state government, officials said that only after the entire investigation is completed will any compensation be given.