"Why is a gang-rape in Muzaffarnagar different from the gang-rape in Badaun?" ask riot-affected Muslims who have been fighting to bring justice to seven gang-rape victims who registered complaints in September 2013. In the nine months since the riots that left over 60 dead, the victims have told their stories to human rights activists and the media, but justice remains elusive.
"It took them just a few days to arrest the five accused of raping and killing the two teenaged cousins in Badaun. It's been months here, but the investigation team has managed to arrest only two of the 22 accused," said Abdul Jabbar, a resident of Jolla village who has been fighting for compensation for the displaced.
It’s not just the struggle for justice that bothers the victims. The constant threat to their lives is a daily struggle, despite all victims except one being given police security. The accused and their kin still threaten them either in person or through phone calls, they claim.
Read: Raped during riots, now threatened by the police
According to Shama (name changed), a group of 10 Jats lay in wait for them while they were on their way back from Delhi where they had gone to meet their lawyer. "We thought we won't survive that day," she said. "It was dark and they couldn't see the policeman in the front seat,” added Mustaqeem, husband of one of the victims who sat next to the policeman. “When they realised there were two armed gunmen sitting in the car with us, they left without saying a word."
HT met five of the seven victims. All of them complained of harassment at the hands of the police officials investigating the case. Most mentioned the name of Mala Yadav, the investigating officer. "For months, she (Yadav) tried to discourage and coerce us to consider a settlement with the Jat accused," said Saba (name changed).
Refuting all complaints by the victims as false accusations, Manoj Jha, additional SP, SIC said: "Mala (Yadav) has diligently registered their statements, prepared a chargesheet and investigated their cases. Why would she suggest any victim to consider a settlement? All these accusations are hurled at us just to pressurise us and hamper our investigation."
Read: Badaun case highlights Akhilesh govt's apathy
The Special Investigative Cell (SIC) claims that 20 of the 22 accused are missing and hence can't be arrested. When HT visited the Jat-dominated villages of Fugana and Lisadh two weeks ago, many of the accused were allegedly not only present in their villages, but were protesting false accusations from the victims.
The victims are also worried about Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Baliyan's public stance. Inducted as the Union minister of state for agriculture in the Narendra Modi government, Baliyan has said he'll ensure justice for the falsely accused after the election win.