On the afternoon of December 19, a 45-year-old Dalit woman’s family received a phone call from a relative, asking them to meet that day near a petrol pump around 50 km from her home in UP’s Baghpat. “They told us that their daughter had been missing from Ghaziabad along with my estranged elder son. They said that all of us will look for the two of them together,” says the woman.
The family agreed. But then, from December 19 evening till they were rescued by police on December 25 night, the woman, her husband, younger son and son-in-law were held as hostage at a house in neighbouring Shamli’s Nojal village. According to police, while the men were beaten up and their limbs tied, the woman was allegedly gang-raped and severely assaulted.
On Sunday evening, at her home in Badaut, the woman is on a charpoy on the terrace, needing assistance to get up and walk. Her husband lifts the end of his pyjama to show his feet swollen by the beating.
Recalling the horror of those six days, the woman says, “Around 8 pm on December 19, when we reached the petrol pump, they forcibly took us in their vehicles to their house in Nojal. Once we reached the house, they made us strip. They beat us and kept us in separate rooms. They told us that they will not let us go till their daughter is found. They claimed that my eldest son has eloped with her from Sahibabad in Ghaziabad.”
”They beat us black and blue. Haiwaniyat ki saari hadh paar kar di (they crossed all limits of barbarism),” says the husband, who works as a daily-wage labourer and earns around Rs 100 on the days he gets work.
According to the family, the elder son had left their home at least five years ago following which he went to live at a relative’s house in Sahibabad. “Apparently, the woman’s son and the accused’s daughter were staying at the same relative’s house in Sahibabad. They went missing from there early December, according to a complaint lodged at Sahibabad police station,” says Krishan Kumar, SHO, Thana Bhawan police station, Shamli.
The news of the family being confined in Nojal reached Shamli police on December 25, when the woman’s son managed to flee from the accused’s house. “He reached the police station and informed us about the kidnapping and torture following which our teams reached the house and rescued them,” says Ajay Pal, SP, Shamli.
”An FIR against four people was lodged under IPC sections related to kidnapping, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation. They were in a state of shock and had been warned against informing police about the torture. A day later, the woman came forward and told us about the gang-rape. An FIR under sections of rape was lodged and one person, Bhopal Singh who is a former pradhan of the village, has been arrested. The others are still on the run,” says Pal.
“They belong to our community but they are dabang, they own several bighas of land. My two sons and I work in brick kilns half the year when these kilns work. Rest of the year, we take up odd jobs on agricultural land owned by others in the village. On a good day, we manage to earn Rs 100. My eldest son has left the house and he has not come home in five years. We don’t know what he does,” says the husband.
Since the rescue, the family claims it has been receiving calls from the accused to reach a compromise and not pursue the police case. “They are offering us money and asking us to quash the police case. We told them that even if you give us Rs 1 crore, we will not withdraw the case. We have expressed our concern to the police about security,” the husband claims.
But safety is not the only concern bothering the family. Two days before her younger son fled from the house in Nojal, her son-in-law had managed to escape. But since then, he has not reached his house. “We do not know where he is. He did not go to the police or come back home. We hope he is fine. He must be shaken by what happened there. His mobile phone was taken by those people,” the woman says.