Multiple new violent sex crimes against women were reported from Uttar Pradesh on Monday, as political heat mounted on chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to quickly crack down on rapes that appear to have spiked on his watch.
New rapes were reported from Meerut, Firozpur, Fatehpur and Bareilly where a 22-year-old woman was killed after her attackers gang-raped her and forced acid down her throat. Sex crimes in Uttar Pradesh have hit international headlines following the rape and hanging of two girls, aged 12 and 14, who had gone out to relieve themselves at night in Katra Saadatganj village, Badaun district, last week.
A wave of outrage, from Opposition political parties to women’s activists, has hit the state government which stands accused of not only failing to stop rapes but also dragging its feet over the Badaun case where some of the suspects hail from the powerful Yadav community, to which the chief minister also belongs.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), buoyed by its strong victory in UP in the recent Lok Sabha elections, sought to make political capital of the rapes, holding a noisy protest outside the chief minister’s office in Lucknow on Monday. Police used water cannons to break up the gathering, mostly of women party workers who displayed bangles they said were meant for the chief minister.
While political protests and outrage poured in so did new reports of rapes from across the state that drew condemnation even from the United Nations on Monday.
In Meerut, a 10-year-old girl playing outside her home was abducted and gang-raped by unidentified men who later also tried to run her over with their car. She escaped with some broken bones, local police said. Another young girl was raped by a man at knifepoint in her house in Gavada village under Fatehpur district, 80 km east of Kanpur. The man, identified as Chotey Sahu, 24, was arrested.
Reports also came in on Monday that a woman was allegedly gang-raped and thrown in a ditch in Sofipur village under Basai Mohammadpur police station of Firozabad district. She was spotted by police and admitted to the local government hospital. Three people had been arrested, DIG, Agra Range, Vijay Singh Meena told HT by telephone.
In the fourth incident, a 22-year-old woman was allegedly gang-raped and made to swallow acid in Bareilly. She was then strangulated. Her body with the face mutilated was recovered from a field in Aithpura village on Saturday. The autopsy report came in on Monday, Special superintendent of police J Ravindra Gaur said, adding that there was a possibility that the victim was from Uttarakhand. A police team has been sent there.
Meanwhile, police said they were building a watertight case using forensic evidences in the Badaun rapes.
“We are relying on forensic evidences and have called the team of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) from Lucknow to collect all possible evidences from the crime scene,” Atul Saxena, superintendent of police, Badaun told HT by phone.
A government source said forensic experts had found some strands of hair from the crime scene. Local police had been asked to hand over the girls’ clothes for further examination.
In Badaun, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan met the family of the two girls, who were cousins, and alleged the government was “colluding” with those accused in the case. Since the grisly incident, the village has seen a parade of political leaders as well as national and international media.
The rapes in Badaun have laid bare the reality of caste atrocities in the hinterlands of India. Four of the five suspects are from the Yadav community, a powerful land-owning caste that holds political sway in Uttar Pradesh. The victims were from the Shakyas, by tradition peasant farmers who are often vulnerable to exploitation by the Yadavs.
Five people, including two police constables Sarvesh Yadav and Chatrapal Yadav, have been arrested in the case so far. Three other accused are Pappu Yadav, Awadesh Yadav and Urvesh Yadav of the same village.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav met state Governor B L Joshi on Monday and is believed to have apprised him of the actions taken by the government in the aftermath of the alleged gang-rape of two girls in Badaun.
Underscoring the pressure on Akhilesh to act, Union minster Kalraj Mishra said on Monday the Centre would take step based on any report Joshi sends. He said this in response to a growing demand from the BJP and the state opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to sack Akhilesh’s government for failing law and order.