People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 11, 2007
ATROCITY IN ALLAHABAD
Police, Politicians Try To Get Matter Hushed Up
WHILE millions were converging on the Sangam in Allahabad to wash away their sins, a most ghastly crime was committed in another part of the city on the night of January 17-18. Two young girls studying in a madrasa in the Kareli area of the city were gangraped by 6 criminals who forcibly entered the premises and dragged the girls away to a secluded spot nearly 2 kilometres away. The girls somehow made their way back to the madrasa where for the rest of the night they sat huddled together with their fellow students and one teacher --- waiting for the daybreak, since there was not even a phone in the school. In the morning, the watchman who had been locked up in his room by the gangsters went and called the Maulana who ran the madrasa and the Maulana, in turn, phoned a community leader whose wife took the girls to the Kareli thana (police station). The Station House Officer (SHO) refused to send the girls for a medical examination and registered a case of only minor molestation.
Somehow, the local press got hold of the story and it was carried in the papers on the 19th. Leaders of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) immediately contacted the Director General of Police (DGP), UP and other senior functionaries, and pressurised them into ordering the Allahabad district police officers to intervene in the matter. In the meantime, local activists belonging to a women’s organisation were able to take the girls for a medical examination where the fact of rape was established.
On January 21, a huge protest demonstration was held in front of Kotwali in the heart of the city. Many political parties and organisations participated in this, and I was also invited to address the gathering. Because elections are around the corner, some people were seen making an attempt to gain mileage from this horrific incident. But the AIDWA intervention ensured that the question of justice for the girls remained the primary concern. The rally demanded immediate action against the Kareli SHO, arrest of the culprits, protection for the girls and their families, and a guarantee that their education would not come to an end.
Immediately after the demonstration, the suspension of the SHO was announced. BSP leader Ms Mayavati visited the madrasa soon after this event, met the girls and also gave the Maulana 5 lakh rupees to make the place secure and to improve its facilities. This action created quite a stir because the previous day the chief minister had come to take a dip at the Sangam but had not bothered to meet the girls. When asked about this heinous incident by the press, he had responded in his familiar fashion with a promise to give each girl Rs 2 lakh as ‘compensation.’
Zarina Khursheed, president of the UP state unit of the AIDWA, and myself accompanied the local activists to the madrasa later. The location and the complete insecurity of the place were truly shocking. It is situated far away from the city and off the main road, with open ground and fields all around. The building is still being completed and the backdoor is just a plank of wood that was kicked open by the criminals. The watchman is incapable of protecting anyone at all. And in this very completely unprotected place were there 14 young girls and one teacher. Usually there are 55 girls and 3 teachers here, but others were then away from the madrasa, and with their families for the extended Id vacation.
Of course, it is their poverty and the non-availability of any alternative form of education to them that has brought these girls being here, and this is the only ‘boarding school’ available to them. Here they are taught the Quran, Hadees, rudimentary mathematics, a smattering of English and Urdu, and given 3 meals a day and a place to sleep on the floor. For it, half of them pay only 250 a month while the others pay nothing at all.
These girls had been studying here for 7 years and in another 3 months they would have sat for the Alim degree examination. We spent a long time talking to them. Their anguish and horror were unbearable. But their courage was truly amazing. They were determined not only to fight for justice but also to continue with their studies. The two victim girls said they would not touch a single paisa of the ‘compensation’ because what they wanted was justice. The father of one of the girls is a hawker of readymade clothes. She is the first child in his family to have received any kind of education. He repeatedly said he would sleep hungry with stones tied to his stomach but he will see to it that his daughter completes her course.
The girls also told us that the persons arrested by the police (after all the AIDWA’s intervention) had been paraded before them and they had recognised 3 of them.
Later on we took the girls to the Maulana’s house where he assured us that they would be safe. We were quite sceptical but had no choice. Unfortunately, our fears were well-founded. We were told next morning that, late at night, the local SP MP had paid a visit to the house, abused the Maulana and threatened him and the terror stricken girls with dire consequences. After he left, they were so frightened that they moved to a neighbouring house.
But this was not all. The next morning, the father of one of the girls --- Mohd Imran --- told Zarina that some local policemen had come to his house in the village at midnight and brought him forcibly to the MP’s house. Here he was threatened and abused and, when that did not work, offered all kinds of inducements to withdraw all the cases. He said that he had stood firm and refused to compromise.
The AIDWA has taken up this matter with the local police and with the state’s DGP and they have promised action against the erring policemen. But our hope is that they will also act against the politicians who had been misusing their power to get this case hushed up.