Inside the trauma ward of a Rajasthan government hospital, doctors in white scrubs scurry past anxious relatives of patients to attend to the more serious cases, while security guards tell visitors to be quiet. In one corner, a man in his late 30s sits anxiously on a wooden bench, staring at his wife blankly, while asking every now and then if she needs anything.
“We want immediate arrest of those policemen… They should be punished, hanged for what they did,” the woman says, her face veiled, as her husband nods.
The 35-year-old Dalit woman, a mother of four, has accused policemen at a Churu police station of keeping her in illegal custody for seven days, gangraping her, and killing her brother-in-law in front of her. She was brought to the hospital a day after her release.
Her husband points to her toes with their missing nails, and her arm with a long bruise. “They plucked out the nails of my wife and tortured her mercilessly.
During this time, whenever we asked police about her, they told us she was under arrest. She finally arrived home on July 10,” he says.
While doctors are tight-lipped, the superintendent of the hospital where the woman is admitted says she is stable now. “A medical jurist has prepared a report on the nature of her injuries and it has been submitted to police. We won’t be able to discharge her as long as her treatment is on,” he said.
Asked about the nature of the woman’s injuries, Rajasthan DGP Bhupendra Singh said, “The entire matter is under investigation. The medical tests that are being done are also part of the probe. It won’t be right to draw any inferences till the investigation is complete.”
The woman was picked up on July 3 by police after her brother-in-law was arrested in connection with a theft case.
While an inquiry into her brother-in-law’s custodial death is being conducted by an Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, the CID Crime Branch is probing her FIR of gangrape and other offences against six policemen, including then SHO of the police station where the two were kept. All of them, plus the officer of the police circle, have been suspended, while the government has removed Churu SP Rajendra Kumar Sharma.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the woman says, “After taking me to the station, police started thrashing me. After 11 pm, five-six policemen came in drunk, stripped and raped me. The men included the SHO. They didn’t listen to my pleas.”
She accuses the policemen of injecting her with some drug, causing her to lose consciousness. “They took my thumb impression on blank papers. They threatened me saying that if I told anyone about what had happened, they would kill me. When I resisted their attempts to rape me, they said they would burn me by pouring petrol on me and gave me electric shocks.”
She claims she saw the policemen bring in a rope to hang her brother-in-law. “A woman constable tried to stop them, but they told her to shut up.” Apart from those suspended, all the staff of the police station have been sent to the police lines, including the woman constable.
One of her other brothers-in-law walks into the ward carrying food for the couple. The husband says he is reluctant to leave the woman’s side.
With the BJP taking on the Congress government in Rajasthan over the case, alleging deteriorating law and order, Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma has claimed that the woman’s rape allegation is false and that the family was incited into lodging the FIR.
The woman asked what accounted for her injuries then. “Don’t you see the bruises? Where have my nails gone then? Why would I say that I was raped, risk threats if the incident didn’t happen?”