In 2013, communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in and around Muzzaffarnagar and Shamli districts in Uttar Pradesh led to the killing 60 people and the displacement of tens of thousands. There were also reports of targeted sexual violence against women: Seven Muslim women came forward to report that they had been gangraped by men from the Jat community. However, to date, there has not been a single conviction in any of the cases, said a new Amnesty International India (AII) report, Losing Faith, The Muzaffarnagar Gang Rape Survivors’ Struggle for Justice, which was released on Thursday.
According to the report, two of the seven have changed their statements, following threats and intimidation. One died in 2016. In two cases, trial has not even begun.
The survivors also have not received any additional benefits from the state, apart from the compensation given to all who had lost their property in the riots.
“The security and compensation that the state government provided to the survivors came only after human rights lawyers filed petitions on their behalf before the Supreme Court in December 2013,” the report added.
Shockingly, when researchers met the survivors, many did not receive regular information about the status of their cases from government authorities.
Some even said that they had not attended hearings for several months as they did not know about the dates of the hearings and had not met the government prosecutors handling their cases.
The Muzzaffarnagar district court counsel told AII that the delays were partly caused by difficulty in finding the survivors, and that he was unaware that one of survivors had died in August 2016.
The state’s advocate general insisted that there were no delays on the part of the government.
It also seems that the political class has forgotten the cases. Though the Samajwadi Party and the BJP’s manifestos for the UP election talk about women safety and empowerment, they have no mention of the
cases or promises for a speedy trial. Both districts go to polls on February 11.
The Allahabad High Court granted bail to the three of accused men in December 2014, January 2015 and February 2015, on the condition that they will not seek “adjournments on the dates fixed for evidence when the witnesses are present in court.
However, adjournments were repeatedly sought by the accused and granted by the fast-track court hearing the case.
In an appeal made to the state government that will take over after March 11 results, the AII has urged that it must ensure that the investigations and prosecutions into the gangrape cases are pursued without delay; those responsible are brought to justice; investigate reports of threats, intimidation or harassment of survivors of their relatives, and bring suspects to trial; provide survivors effective legal assistance and services, keep them informed of the status of investigations and prosecutions, and address any concerns they may have; and also ensure that survivors are provided adequate rehabilitation, compensation and other measures of repatriation and that their economic and social needs are met.
“There is a pattern that follows communal riots and anti-Dailt violence in India. We have seen this happening in Gujarat and in Uttar Pradesh though the ruling parties were different: The police will either not file cases or even if they do, they will make the chargesheet weak. This is not just a failure but a deliberate design to deny justice to the victims. There is a huge majoritarian bias in the system,” former bureaucrat Harsh Mander told HT.