Two days after a 19-year-old rape victim and her lawyer were badly injured in a mysterious road accident that killed two of the woman’s aunts in Rae Bareli district of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP faced a firestorm of protests in Parliament and outside for allegedly protecting the MLA accused of the rape.
Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who is the BJP representative in the UP Assembly from Bangarmau, is in jail after being arrested on April 13, 2018. On Monday, police registered a murder FIR against Sengar after an uncle of the woman accused him of ordering the previous afternoon’s hit on the highway at Gurubakshganj.
The CBI, which has already chargesheeted the MLA for rape, will now also investigate the road accident in which the car carrying the woman and her companions was rammed by a truck that had a numberplate blacked out.
The woman’s father died in judicial custody in 2018. A few days before Sunday’s accident, the woman and two of her relatives had written to the Chief Justice of India to say there was a threat to their lives.
What is the story of this case of many twists and turns, which has now escalated into a major political controversy?
The first allegations
On April 8, 2018, the woman, who has since come to be called the “Unnao rape victim” after the district in UP to which both she and Sengar belong, tried to set herself ablaze near Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence in Lucknow to protest alleged police inaction against the MLA, whom she accused of sexually assaulting her.
Police took the woman and eight members of her family, including her mother and grandmother, to Gautam Palli police station. The woman told reporters that the MLA had sexually assaulted her in his home in June 2017, and her family had been threatened.
Unnao Police said the woman’s family had alleged that two youths from their village had kidnapped her on June 11, 2017, and that a case had been registered on June 20 that year. Based on the woman’s statement, three men, Shubham Singh, Naresh Tiwari, and Brijesh Yadav, were arrested for gangrape and offences under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The woman was 17 years old at the time of the alleged incident.
The officer in charge of the concerned police station had said that the woman’s family suspected that the MLA was helping the accused youths. They had, according to the officer, therefore, alleged that on June 4, 2017, Shashi Singh, the mother of the accused Shubham Singh, had taken her to Sengar’s residence, where he had assaulted her sexually.
Police also said that the woman’s father and uncle were criminals — the father had 28 cases of murder, loot etc. against him, and the uncle faced 15 cases, some from as early as 1991.
Subsequently, the woman told The Indian Express in an interview that the MLA was a family friend, and that she and her siblings addressed him as “Bhaiyya”.
“It was on June 4 last year (2017),” she said in the interview published on April 13, 2018. “I was asked to go inside a room, where he raped me. Later, I was told that my father and family would be killed if I opened my mouth. I did not speak about it to anyone until I was kidnapped by some of his people a few days later, on June 11. They gangraped me for a few days and sold me to someone from whom I was recovered.”
Sengar denied all allegations. He claimed some history-sheeters were trying to fix him because he had helped “innocent youths” who had been accused in a trumped-up case.
Death of the woman’s father
On April 9, 2018, the day after the woman attempted to kill herself in Lucknow, her father died in judicial custody in Unnao jail, allegedly of injuries sustained in a brutal assault by supporters of the MLA six days previously. Four of Sengar’s supporters — Vineet, Bauwa, Shailu and Sonu — were named in the FIR filed by the family on April 3.
The accused too, had filed an FIR against the woman’s father, who was booked under sections of the Arms Act and the IPC. The family alleged that the MLA and his supporters had tried to frame the woman’s father.
It subsequently emerged that the woman’s father had been arrested on the same day as the incident took place, while the four aides of the MLA were arrested only after he died in jail. Six policemen were suspended and, the following day (April 10, 2018), the MLA’s brother, Atul Singh, was arrested. The post mortem examination of the woman’s father found 14 injuries on the body. It identified septicaemia or blood poisoning as the cause of death.
A Special Investigation Team was formed on April 11, 2018 to probe the alleged rape. In the meantime, a video surfaced, showing the woman’s father alleging that the MLA’s brother had beaten him in the presence of the police. On the same day, Sengar’s wife Sangeeta met the UP DGP to plead for justice for her husband. He was a victim of a political conspiracy, she told reporters.
The CBI’s investigation
On April 12, 2018, police registered an FIR against Sengar under various sections of the IPC and The POCSO Act. The same day, on the directions of the Allahabad High Court, the investigation was handed over to the CBI.
CBI arrested Sengar the following day (April 13), following an order passed by the court hours earlier. The “law and order machinery was directly in league and under the influence of” Sengar, the court said. On April 14, CBI arrested Shashi Singh, the woman who had allegedly lured the victim to Sengar’s home on June 4, 2017.
In May 2018, CBI booked Sengar and others for conspiracy to implicate the victim’s father in a false case, and arrested two policemen. Sengar and Shashi were moved to Sitapur jail from Unnao after a plea was filed in the High Court saying the victim was feeling threatened.
On July 7, 2018, CBI filed its first chargesheet against Sengar’s brother Atul Singh and four others in connection with the death of the woman’s father. The woman’s father had come from Delhi to attend a court hearing on April 3 related to the rape case against the MLA, the chargesheet said. In the evening, he was abused and beaten by the accused in front of his house, the CBI said.
On July 11, CBI filed another chargesheet in the court of the Special Judicial Magistrate (CBI), Lucknow. It accused Sengar of the woman’s rape, and Shashi Singh of aiding him in the crime. They were accused under IPC Sections 120B (conspiracy), 363 (kidnapping), 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, etc), 376 (rape), and 506 (criminal intimidation), and under The POCSO Act.
On July 14, a third chargesheet was filed against Sengar and nine others for allegedly hatching a conspiracy and implicating the woman’s father in an Arms Act case.
Cases against woman’s family
Five months after the CBI chargesheets, an FIR was lodged at Makhi police station against the victim, her mother, and uncle for allegedly forging documents submitted to police as proof that the victim was a minor. The FIR was registered on the complaint of Shashi’s husband Haripal Singh, following the directions of a local court.
In July 2019, the uncle of the woman was convicted in a 19-year-old case of attempt to murder, and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a district court. Notably, this case, dating back to the panchayat elections in Unnao in June 2000, had been filed by Sengar’s brother, Atul Singh.
According to Ramjeevan Yadav, the additional district government counsel of Unnao, Atul Singh had alleged in the FIR that when he was casting his vote in the elections, the woman’s father and her two uncles were “threatening” local people to vote for their candidate.
“When Atul Singh objected, they allegedly started hurling abuses at him. Atul Singh did not react and started walking towards his house. When he was a few metres from his house, the three brothers came back and started threatening him and opened fire at him. However, Atul Singh managed to escape unhurt,” Yadav had said.