Life,for them,had never been easy. The couple and their family of 16 live in a two-room tenement and the father,who works at a local grocery store for a daily wage of Rs 200,is the only earning member.
Theirs is also one of four Jatav Dalit families in a majority Lodhe Rajput village just outside Bulandshahr city,and have been under pressure for long. But over the last few days,things have turned downright ugly,they said.
The couples 10-year-old daughter,their ninth child,was allegedly raped by a 35-year-old Rajput man on Sunday. And when the girl and her mother went to the police station in Bulandshahr to complain,the girl was made to spend the night in the lock-up.
Now,the majority Rajputs of the village are pressuring the family to withdraw the case and leave the village of 150 houses even as the police said medical examination of the girl has not established rape or injury.
But the Jatav family is adamant. It is neither willing to withdraw the case nor leave the village because it is home despite everything. They hope the law will come to their rescue.
The Rajputs say they are men. They say they get tempted when they see a girl of my daughters age. They are blaming us saying why did we let her go out alone, the girls mother told The Indian Express Wednesday.
They have been threatening to kill us,burn down our ancestral home and stone my daughter to death if we do not withdraw the rape case. Even the village panchayat,including the sarpanch,is in favour of the accused and is asking the family to settle the matter, she alleged.
We are so scared that we cannot go out of our house. A day after the incident,all the Rajputs came and encircled our house. They told me to settle a price for my daughter and keep quiet about the case or else they would stone her to death, the mother alleged. I picked up my daughter in an unconscious state from the road. She was traumatized and was shivering. How can they expect me to withdraw the case?
Hearing her mother speak,the 10-year-old girl,who was lying on a cot in the verandah with a blanket over her face,murmured weakly,yes,he should not be spared.
She said she was walking to a local shop Sunday evening when the man,later identified as Harinder,a father of three who has since been arrested,asked her to accompany him to the field to water crops.
I told him I am going home. He stuffed a cloth in my mouth and took me to the field where he misbehaved with me. He then said he would throw me into the river if I dare to narrate the incident to my parents, the girl said,her voice barely audible. I am very scared of the villagers.
The girls four-year-old niece,who had accompanied her to the shop,said the man forced the 10-year-old to go with him and dragged her by her dress. I ran back home and told her mother. We then went looking for her, she said. The mother said the 10-year-old had bite marks on her body and scratches on her back when they found her.
When they went to the Bulandshahr womens police station to complain,the girl was made to spend the night in the lock-up with another woman. The woman inspector asked me to wait outside and took my daughter inside. She made her sit inside the lock-up through the night while I sat outside. We were sent back the next morning after a case was registered, the mother said.
Superintendent of Police (City),Ajay Kumar,admitted it was a lapse by the police and called it illegal confinement of the girl. He said an inquiry had been ordered against the officers on duty and that two women constables on duty had been suspended and two sub-inspectors transferred to the police lines.
In Lucknow,the DGPs office Wednesday ordered that a FIR be registered against unidentified police personnel for putting the girl in the lock-up in Bulandshahr.
Kumar also said the constables had asked the girl to sit in the lock-up as they feared she would leave without registering a proper complaint. Since the SHO was busy in a crime meeting,the constables thought they would ask the girl to wait until she returns. Since the girl was a minor,her custody should have been given to her parents. The constables had no business asking her to sit inside the lock-up for the entire night, Kumar said.
Eyewitnesses and the wife of the accused,who was reportedly with him throughout the day,have said the girl had gone to his field to pluck tomatoes,when he scolded her and asked her to go back. We have not found any evidence against the accused yet. However,we are waiting for the pathology report, Kumar added. – With ENS,Lucknow inputs