AFTER EVADING arrest for nearly a month, Samajwadi Party leader and outgoing Uttar Pradesh minister Gayatri Prajapati was arrested in Lucknow on Wednesday. Prajapati has been accused of gangraping a woman and attempting to molest her minor daughter. Following the Supreme Court’s directive, the Lucknow police had lodged an FIR against Prajapati and six others on February 18. The six co-accused have already been arrested. The apex court had asked the UP Police to submit an action taken report in eight weeks.
Police had obtained a non-bailable warrant against Prajapati, got his passport suspended and issued a lookout notice. On Tuesday, Prajapati’s two sons and a nephew were detained and questioned on his whereabouts. DIG, Lucknow Range, Praveen Kumar said Prajapati was nabbed early on Wednesday morning following a tip-off. He was taken to the Alambagh police station, where his supporters staged a protest and claimed that he had been framed in the case.
At around 10:30 am, he was produced before a local court, which sent him to judicial custody for 14 days. His supporters protested outside the court too, leading to arguments with a group of lawyers. Police had to intervene to prevent a clash between the lawyers and Prajapati’s supporters, said Vijay Sen Singh, SHO, Wazirganj police station. According to a PTI report, Prajapati said he was going to surrender but was arrested. “I am innocent. This is a conspiracy to malign me,” he said, adding that he was ready to take a narco test. He also demanded a narco test on the minor victim.
In her complaint to the police, the woman alleged that about three years ago, Prajapati had called her to his residence, through his associate Ashok Tiwari, and promised to allot a mining block in Hamirpur to her. She claimed that she was drugged and raped by Prajapati and Ashok, who reportedly clicked her photographs too. After that, the woman, who is originally from Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh, was allegedly blackmailed and called regularly to Prajapati’s residence, where she was sexually abused.
The woman’s lawyer, Mehmood Pracha, told The Indian Express that Prajapati did not allot any mining block to her. He claimed that the accused promised to return the woman’s photographs and called her to Lucknow on July 16 last year. “The victim came to Lucknow along with her 12-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter,” he said. In her police complaint, the woman did not mention the date, but stated that Prajapati asked her to leave her daughter with him. When she refused, Prajapati, Ashok Tiwari and Ashish Shukla allegedly tried to rape her daughter.
According to Pracha, the woman filed a complaint at the DGP’s office in October last year but no action was taken against the accused. The woman left the state after the accused reportedly started threatening her. While police recorded the statements of the woman and her daughter, both of them refused to go for a medical examination. The first arrest in the case was made on March 6, when Chandrapal, a head constable, was taken into custody. Two days later, two others, Ashok Tiwari and Ashish Shukla, were nabbed in Noida. On Tuesday, the police arrested the remaining accused — Vikas Verma, Amrendra Singh ‘Pintoo’ and Rupeshwar alias Rupesh — from Hazratganj area of Lucknow.
While Vikas is a contractor, his father is posted as the additional city magistrate in Lucknow. Ashok Tiwari is a revenue clerk in Amethi. Rupesh was earlier Prajapati’s additional personal secretary and is now employed with the UP Secretariat in Lucknow.
Ashish Shukla is a contractor while Pintoo Singh is Prajapati’s representative in Amethi — the SP leader lost the assembly elections from Amethi. Ashok Tiwari, Rupesh and Chandrapal — all government employees — were suspended after they were booked in the case. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had attacked the Akhilesh government for shielding Prajapati. Shah had even stated at a rally that as soon as the BJP forms the government in UP, they would launch a search for Prajapati and send him to jail. In September last year, Prajapati was sacked as mining minister by outgoing Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, but re-inducted as the transport minister within a week. He has been absconding since February 27, when polling was held in Amethi.