The families of the Unnao rape victim and BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar once enjoyed “cordial relations”. Their houses were opposite each other’s in Makhi village, and the victim and her siblings used to address the MLA as “Bhaiyya”. Until last June, when she visited the MLA’s house with a relative after he offered her a “job opportunity”.
That was when everything went wrong, said the victim in an interview to The Indian Express in which she spoke about the link between the two families and the sequence of events that led to her alleged rape last year.
“It was June 4 last year. 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,” claimed the 17-year-old victim.
On Thursday, police registered an FIR against Sengar in connection with the alleged gangrape after the UP government decided to hand over the probe to the CBI. Police charged Sengar under various sections of the IPC and provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
“Hum sab unhen Bhaiyya kehte the. Humare bade papa unke sath the. Kabhi-Kabhi woh (MLA) ghar aate the aur daadi se kehte the ki anda fry karke khilao, toh daadi unhe banake khilati thi (All of us used to call him brother. The elder brother of my father was with him. Sometimes, the MLA used to come home and ask my grandmother to prepare egg fry for him, and she used to do it),” said the victim.
Thursday’s FIR was registered days after the victim’s father died in judicial custody, with police arresting Atul Singh Sengar, the MLA’s brother, for allegedly beating him up.
According to the victim, as soon as she returned home after the alleged gangrape last year, she was shifted to Delhi where her uncle lives. “It was at their home in Delhi that I first shared details of the entire incident with my aunt, who then informed my uncle,” said the victim.
“On August 17, 2017, my uncle and I went to Lucknow and submitted an application to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at his residence. He gave it to some others standing with him but nothing happened. Neither me nor my father could come back to the village,” said the victim, adding that she dropped out of school after Class VI about five years ago, “like other girls due to constant harassment by local boys”.
“When nothing happened even after meeting the Chief Minister personally, I wrote applications to the President, Prime Minister, the UP DGP, seeking help. But nothing happened, I was instead advised by policemen to leave the MLA out of it,” she claimed.
But when she heard about her father being beaten up last week, she decided to take the next train to Lucknow to meet the Chief Minister again.
“Those at the gate said he was not there. We requested to meet his subordinates but they refused. I felt that I was the cause of all the trouble for the entire family and had brought kerosene with me. I took it out and poured it on myself. But instead of me, my father was killed,” she said, eyes filling up.
Today, the entire family — the victim, her three sisters, five-year-old brother, mother, grandmother, uncle and aunt — is staying in hotel rooms provided by the district administration in Unnao town.
According to the grandmother, who is TB-stricken, the father of the victim had stayed away from the village until last week when he came to “deliver medicines”.
“I am to be blamed for his death as he had come to the village just to give me medicines. He also wanted to meet his son. They held him by his feet and dragged him out of my house in front of my eyes. We had closed the door but they jumped in… I will never go there again,” said the 65-year-old.
“Mere papa ko khub mara… pani dal-dal ke maar rahe they neem ke ped se bandhke… koi nahin bola… daadi toh wahin behosh ho gayi thi… hum wahan wapas nahin jayenge (My father was beaten badly… they were pouring water on him while beating him after tying him to a neem tree… no one said anything…. my grandmother fainted right there… we won’t go back),” said the 11-year-old sister of the victim.
“When they could pick up the male member of our family from our house in front of the entire village and beat him publicly with their guns and cane sticks, you can imagine our plight. How can we be secure now? They can pick any one of us at night and our bodies would not be found,” said the victim’s mother.
She says the family’s male members and two elder daughters, including the victim, did not return to the village even during festivals.
The rape victim, meanwhile, is clear that she will continue her fight.
“Usne kaha tha ki agar bologi kisi ko toh tumhare papa ko aur parivar ko khatam kar denge. Usne kar diya aur abhi bhi muskurake ghoom raha hai (He had told me that if I confide in anyone, he would finish my papa and family. He has done it and is now moving around with a smile),” she said.
“Jaan de denge, wapas nahin jayenge… lekin ladai ladenge. FIR se kya hota hai, un sabki giraftari honi chahiye (I will give up my life, I won’t go back… but I won’t stop fighting. What happens with an FIR? They should all be arrested).”