Time warp. It’s the first thing to come to mind on visiting Garhi Chowkhandi.
The village’s dusty veneer is deceptive. Shiny new mansions with cars and motorbikes parked in their sprawling patios are its new reality. There’s a washing machine on every verandah. The women have modern gadgets to assist in their household chores. But that is where the similarity with city households ends.
Women are expected to know their place, know that they can lose their lives if they are even perceived to be stepping over the line.
The 12,000-strong village dominated by Yadavs has several well-connected families with relatives in politics. “You will hear the reverberations of this case in Lucknow. Our boys have been wronged,” claimed a relative of Sanjay, one of the accused.
With their farmlands more or less gone, the focus is on business, be it small dairies, factories or schools. Sanjay’s brother, for instance, runs a cement tile and pipe factory. Buffaloes and cows chew cud alongside shiny new cars the villagers have purchased with the compensation they received for their land acquired by Noida Authority.
The villagers now claim that all 11 accused are minors and are aged between 15-17 years. Villagers are careful not make any loose comments about rape, but are alleging that three other men were present in the car with the Delhi couple, who, they say, were indulging in “obscene acts”. And the boys had only tried to teach them a lesson.
“This is a village and the boys are of a traditional mindset. They saw the car parked outside the village and noticed something wrong happening. They tried to stop it. Their only mistake was that they beat them up rather badly. An older person might have called the police or merely ignored it. Now villagers are saying they had seen the car and there were three other men present in the car,” said Nepal Yadav, father of one of the accused, Omkar alias Sharad.
Nepal Yadav had received a handsome amount as compensation for his 20 bighas of land that was acquired. He has bought some land on the outskirts of the village which labourers till and is building a spanking new house. In fact, most of the accused seem to come from the relatively better off families in the village that own the best-constructed houses.
Nepal Yadav admits that life was basic before the compensation for the land came.
“I used to be a farmer, now I don’t do anything. Omkar is also not doing anything. He attends an English medium public school in Noida, but had secured a compartment in his Class X exams. The results were late and he could not join Class XI,” explains Yadav, who has a daughter who attends a school, a rarity in these parts. The local inter-college has about 1,400 students, of these only 100 are girls. Very few girls study beyond Class VIII.