Nearly one month after a 19-year-old was gangraped by five men in Alwar, while she was on her way to the market along with her husband to purchase clothes for a wedding, she says she is still struggling to cope with the trauma, and finds it “very difficult to sleep” at night.
“I was finding it difficult to even get out of bed at one point because I could not stop thinking about what had happened. It kept replaying in my mind, but I have forced myself to get back some sense of normalcy now,” she told The Indian Express.
“Even then, when I lie down to sleep at night, the entire incident comes back to me, and it becomes very difficult to sleep… I want those men to hang, not just because of what they did to me but because I want to ensure that no other woman has to ever go through this again,” she says.
The incident occurred on April 26, while wedding preparations were on in full swing at the woman’s marital home. Her father-in-law recalls suggesting to his son that he take her to the market “to purchase some nice clothes for herself for the ceremonies”.
“It was my nephew’s wedding, and it was the first big celebration we were having since we brought her home in December 2016. Everyone was buying new clothes for themselves and I told my son to take her, too,” he says. At 3 pm, the couple left home on a motorcycle. On the way, however, they were stopped by the six accused, who were riding two motorcycles. “First, one motorcycle came behind ours, and the second one followed a few minutes later. We did not realise that they intended to misbehave until they overtook our vehicle and blocked our path,” says the woman. “They first asked us our names, and our fathers’ names. Then one of the men asked us what our caste was. We said we were Dalits, he said, what can Dalits do to us?” she says.
In the minutes that followed, the six men also asked the couple if they were married. Despite the couple confirming that they were husband and wife, they dragged the woman and her 22-year-old husband, who is studying in Jaipur, behind some sand dunes. There, five of the men took turns to sexually assault her, while a sixth recorded videos of the incident. The woman alleged that after they were done, the accused forced her and her husband into a sexual act and recorded videos of it.
“When they were dragging us, we kept repeating that we were married, we told them the name of our village and begged them to check with our relatives, but they continued regardless… I was conscious throughout the incident, but I was in no condition to stand up or fight them,” says the woman.
Around 5 pm, the men finally released them, taking the Rs 2,000 the woman’s husband was carrying in his wallet, and threatening that they would release the videos if the couple told anyone about the incident, or approached the police.
Instead of returning to her marital home, the woman says she went to see her mother in her village, and confided in her about what had happened. “My mother spoke to my husband and me, and advised that we keep the matter to ourselves because those men had videos of the incident. We then returned to my husband’s house. I washed my clothes and cleaned myself there,” she says.
On April 28, when the accused began calling the couple and blackmailing them, threatening to release the videos if they were not given Rs 10,000, the woman told her brother-in-law, who works at the mini branch of a bank, about what had happened.
“I immediately called the men from my phone, and told them to get in touch with me instead of my brother if they wanted to discuss the matter. He was anyway in Jaipur for his classes and could not deal with them here,” says the woman’s brother-in-law.
“I was, at first, inclined to give them the money, and try to get them to delete the videos when I met them. However, when I spoke to some of my colleagues, they suggested I approach police. They told me I could not keep meeting their demands indefinitely, and I realised they were right,” he says.
On April 29, prior to approaching police, the woman’s parents-in-law were told about the crime. On April 30, a complaint was submitted to police. But despite continuous follow-ups, the woman’s relatives claim no action was taken for two days.
“It was only on May 2 that they registered the FIR. Even after that, we kept telling them about the accused. We had been able to identify them through other residents of this area, but police made no arrests. On May 4, I received one of the videos on my phone,” says the brother-in- law.
“At first, I did not believe that they had circulated the video, but when I opened it, I realised that the person who had sent it to me was right. It was a video of what had happened with my brother and sister-in-law. I took that video to police but the first arrest was made only on May 7. If they had taken action after the FIR was registered, even on May 2, the video would never have seen the light of day,” he says.
Police arrested all the six accused — five for the rape and the sixth for circulating videoclips of the crime. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent a notice to the Congress government in Rajasthan, which removed the Alwar SP and suspended the in-charge of the local police station for delay in action.
With the BJP and Dalit groups calling for a speedy probe, and staging protests, the gangrape became a Lok Sabha poll issue. During his campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged that no action was taken until Alwar went to polls on May 6. The woman, meanwhile, says she has been avoiding the clip. “I am already having problems, seeing that would only increase those. Everyone here knows what has happened, and that bothers me, but my husband’s family has been a big support, which brings some sense of reassurance,” she says.
“I do not know why those men committed the crime, but I feel that they made up their minds when we revealed our caste. They are Gujjars, and they thought we would be helpless, but we are intent on proving them wrong,” she says.