This article has been written by Priyamvada Singh, a student of LLB(H) at School of Law, Galgotias University, Uttar Pradesh. In this article, she analyses the 2017 Unnao Rape case, and its aftermath.
Rape is one of the most common offence against women in India. The rape statistics in India are deeply shocking. There is a woman raped in India every 15 minutes. The number is even more negatively astonishing when we take this into consideration that only 1% of rapes are reported after all. The staggering number has its roots in deeply settled misogyny, and patriarchal mindset that women are objects of mere consumption. It has made its way into the general populace, regardless of gender. The underlying rape culture has been the undertone of every gender debate that has taken place in the past few decades.
The problem grew to such magnitudes that it started to make a dent internationally. It lead to the publication of a paper of the rape problem in India by the European Parliament and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Indian government to take action to protect women. Moreover, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called rape in India a national problem. The Government of India’s response to this was commendable. It modified laws and set up fast-track courts to deal with the problem. However, the government’s apparent answer to this incrementally growing problem with the formation of new legislations, practices like the two-finger test being done away with, and broadening of the concept of rape, was not enough.
The deeply shocking gang rape and murder of a woman in 2012 in the national capital of the country New Delhi in 2012, brought tens of thousands onto the streets across India and spurred demands for action from film stars and politicians, leading to harsher punishments and new fast-track courts. But the violence has continued unabated ( number of rapes since the Nirbhaya incident). It is also said that the Law Commission had warned of such an incident beforehand. However, it had fallen on deaf ears. After the December 2012 Mukesh & Ors. vs. NCT of Delhi, the Government of India constituted a judicial committee headed by Justice J.S. Verma to suggest amendments in criminal laws and punishment to deal firmly in sexual assault cases, and based on the recommendations of the committee a Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed. According to Section 375, the word rape has been defined as sexual assault and it includes assault without penetration, and penetration to any extent other than penile penetration is also an offence. New offences have been added like acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking with related punishments.The subjugation or subordination of women to men is prevalent in large parts of the world but in some parts women are also subjected to discriminations, exploitations, oppressions and violence (UNIFEM 2003).
However in most cases it is not just the victim that experiences the calamitous consequences of sexual violence. In a patriarchal society like in India where the women have very low status, the people closely connected to the victim, especially the family members are also affected as a result of the negative social reactions.
The 2017 Unnao Rape Case
In 2017, another news rocked the entire country. Politician and BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was accused of having raped a minor Dalit girl. What was even more disturbing was the fact that this was not the first case involving a member of the legislative branch doing so. Infact, political parties often happen to have a number of MPs and MLAs that have or had ongoing rape charges on them. However, what happened later proved to be more calamitous.
On the 4th day of June, 2017, a minor girl, merely 17 years in age then, was kidnapped from her village of residence in Uttar Pradesh, and raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his brother Jaideep alias Atul Singh, and others. She was found 17 days later, on 21st June, 2017- in a village named Auraiya- 116.8 kms away from her village Mankhi.
The next day, on the 22nd of June, 2017, an FIR was filed, albeit the reluctance of the police officers in doing so. The main accused, even after the victim’s cries, was not named in the First Information Report of the police. Infact, it was alleged that the police even threw them out of the station when they insisted on Sengar being named in the report. Section 363 (kidnapping) and Section 366 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (kidnapping a woman to compel her for marriage) were charged. However, no action was taken and all her voice fell into the government’s deaf ears.
As the matter escalated, on 3rd April, 2018 the father of the victim was beaten black and blue by the legislator’s brother and co-accused Jaideep alias Atul Sengar and others, and video of the same was put up on social media for the world to witness. The victim’s father could be heard calling out Atul Singh’s name in the video, yet the latter was not even mentioned in the report filed. Even though the father of the victim filed a report with the police about this, he was arrested by the police and sent to jail. The shameless protection of the accused and his accomplices continued as the police force turned a blind eye to the repeated threats the victim and her family received from Sengar.
As a desperate attempt to make herself heard in the dark, on 3rd April, 2018, the victim tried to immolate herself in front of the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence and alleged the crimes against her and her immediate and extended family. She also accused the police force of having turned a blind eye to the entire situation, thereby facilitating more offences.
Unfortunately, merely a week later, on 9th April, 2018, the victim’s father succumbed to his injuries, owing to the police beatings. The post mortem report mentioned the cause of the death of the man to be “ blood poisoning”, along with injuries on his body.
Owing to the seriousness of the offenses alleged, police protection was granted to the victim and her family, 2 days later to the incident- on 11th April, 2018. However, basic amenities like water or electricity remained absent from the vicinity and the protection proved to be more like an incarceration.
It was around this time that senior advocate G.S. Chaturvedi prayed to the Allahabad High Court for a court monitored investigation into the entire matter, and was accepted by the latter for the same.
The next day, on 12th April, 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) ordered for the arrest of K.S. Sengar, Jaideep alias Atul Singh, and others involved in the crimes. Following this, as the verbal flag of the party grew on social media and news, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath refuted claims of having tried to save Sengar from proceedings, and claimed to have dealt with the matter firmly. The next day CBI arrested the woman who had taken the Dalit minor survivor to the perpetrators, the night of the rape.
A year later, when the case started proceeding, another calamity struck. On 2nd July, 2019, a twenty year old case of the uncle of the victim was brought to surface, and one decade of prison time was awarded to him by a lower court. In the same month, the lead counsel and the girl were both fatally injured in a car accident when they were en route to the Rae Bareli District Court for a hearing. The paternal and the maternal aunts of the victim succumbed to their injuries in the crash. Three days later, Sengar was relieved from his duties of the central and state BJP leadership and duties.
On the 2nd of August, exercising its right to transfer any case from courts, the Apex Court transferred five cases of criminal nature against the victim and her family from the Lucknow CBI Court to the Delhi CBI Court. These cases were of the death of the victim’s father while he was in police custody on the pretext of an Arms Act booked on him by the police force, and the two gangrapes that the victim was subjected to one week apart from the other. Further, keeping in view the seriousness of the crime, and the vulnerability of the victim and her family, for the time being the Supreme Court, in the case of K.S. Sengar v. State of Uttar Pradesh, ordered the payment of Rupees 25,00,000/- by the Uttar Pradesh government, to the victim. This was declared to be merely an interim compensation. A few days later, the key witness of the case, Yunus, died under mysterious circumstances on 18th August, 2018. No post mortem was done by the police.
Even while MLA Sengar was in Sitapur jail under the charges, BJP did not let his actions or criminal past come in the way of their overt displays of unity. On the 6th of June, 2019, BJP’s Unnao MP Sachchidanand Sakshi alias Sakshi Maharaj met him after the general election to express his gratitude for his win to him. He said that it was Sengar’s blessing that had caused the seat to be secured by him.
Finally, on the fateful day of 20th December, 2019 MLA Sengar was convicted of his charges and the court awarded him a sentence of incarceration for life, under Section 376(2) Indian Penal Code, 1860. Even though this sentence was welcome, this delayed- and often denied- justice by the police and the law enforcement has caused significant damage to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
It also directed that additional Rs 10 lakh be paid as compensation to the mother of the rape survivor, failing which, the State Government of Uttar Pradesh would have to pay the amount to the victim from its fund, as per the norms laid down by the Criminal Procedure Code, 1860 (CrPC).
Rape is a malum in se (wrong or evil in itself) offense, and has severe mental, physical, emotional, and, unfortunately, even social consequences on its victim. Amongst other reasons, it is also the result of a multi-dimensional culture of victimization, where the perpetrator is made to feel like a winner, a conqueror. In the instant case, the events conspired as a way for MLA Sengar and his accomplices to exercise power over the victim. Sengars belong to the upper caste, forward ‘Thakurs’, and the victim was a Dalit and a minor.
Additionally, the sodden system of the ruling party saving face, along with trying to secure a seat through caste-based vote bank, by protecting the perpetrator by whatever means necessary, is a rotten example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In the same year as this case, it was reported that 91 rape cases were reported daily to the police in the biggest democracy of the world, India. It is ironic that in spite of various attempts at awakening the society and its members, sexual assaults continue to rise intermittently- even though gender equality is enshrined in the constitution. The research done in this subject has often provided more questions than answers, but I have gained a better understanding of the complexity and the multi facetedness of rape. I have also gotten the clarity about its correlation with the situation of women in the country.
- http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~ruchitarathi/infoviz-final-caw/ https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-crime-women/one-woman-reports-a-rape-every-15-minutes-in-india-idUSKBN1Z821W
- https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=United+Nations+High+Commissioner+for+Human+Rights+Navi +Pillay+called+rape+in+India+a+national+problem&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
- https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/bibliotheque/briefing/2013/130433/LDM_BRI(2013) 130433_REV1_EN.pdf
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