Navsarjan case studies suggest justice eludes Dalits women, whether they are victims of attacks from within or without

CASTEHuman rights NGO Navsarjan Trust has compiled a few case studies of atrocities against Dalit women, suggesting how justice continues to elude in several of them even if there may be evidence against the accused. A few cases even suggest that Dalit women are also victims of atrocity from  the males of own community. A report:  

Case 1: Victim 1 is a Dalit woman and lives in village Chomal, taluka Gariyadhar, Bhavnagar district. She was sexually abused on February 5, 2008 at 10 pm. The accused is a 30 year old doctor and is a Muslim. The victim suffered from an infection on her buttocks due to a previous injection and was in need of medical treatment by the accused, a doctor. The doctor scheduled her for an evening appointment and indicated that assistance from a nurse was unnecessary. The victim was brought to the appointment by her father and brother. Her father attempted to accompany her into the operation theater but was asked to leave by the doctor. The doctor instructed the victim to remove all her clothes. He then unzipped the zipper on his own pants and attempted to sexually assault her. The victim shouted and the doctor left the room.

Societal pressure and the fear of public response caused the family to wait five days before contacting police. The charges of Atrocities Act 3 (1) (11) and IPC sections 354 and 376 (GH) were filed. According to the field report, the victim was pressured to seek a compromise. They are currently fighting for a legal compromise.

Case 2: Victim 2 a 19-year-old single Dalit woman, lives in Lakhnaka, taluka Gadhada, Bhavnagar district. On April 7, 2008 she was physically attacked and an attempt of sexual violence was made against her. The attackers were three men. The primary person accused is a sarpanch, the village head, from the Patel forward caste, and is 32 years old.

The victim was on a moped traveling home alone after a school examination in a secluded area. Three men stopped her from driving and did not permit her to continue. They caught her by the hand, pulled her to the side of the road and began to swear at, harass and physically attack her and attempted to sexually assault her. While this was happening a rickshaw passed. The victim shouted for help and the accused ran away.

The victim returned home, told her parents about the attack and the FIR was registered the same day. The family waited for further action by the police but nothing happened. After three months the family contacted Navsarjan to seek legal support for the case. Navsarjan lawyers assisted her to register an FIR with the Human Rights Commission on 25 July, 2008. The Commission put pressure on the local police who then properly registered her complaint on 1 August. Charges of Atrocities Act 3 (1) (10) and 3 (1) (11) and IPC sections 114, 354, 504 and 506 (2) were filed. An attempt at a compromise was not possible, so the case is continuing in the court.

Case 3: Victim 3, a 21-year-old Dalit married woman, lived with her husband in taluka Talaja, Bhavnagar district. She died on August 9, 2009 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a lengthy period of physical and mental harassment from her husband and in-laws. Her husband, also a Dalit, is accused of abetment to suicide.

In the days leading to the suicide the victim and the accused were having an ongoing argument over the victim’s desire to travel to her parents’ home for the Rakhi festival. Her husband would not permit her to go as he wanted to wait five days due to his teaching obligation. Because of this disagreement the accused continued to harass the victim until, utterly despondent, she took her life.

The FIR was filed by the victim’s mother within 24 hours of the death. The accused was arrested after 15 days. The charge sheet, delayed by one month, indicates the charge of abetment to suicide, IPC sections 114, 306 and 498. Witness statements confirm ongoing physical and mental harassment by the accused and the victim’s sense of hopelessness and despondency. The case will start in the court.

Case 4: Victim 4, a 40-year-old Dalit married woman and lived in Nana Kapaya, taluka Mundra, Kutch district. She was murdered on May 6, 2009. The accused is from the Mochi forward caste.

At the time the victim was living with her husband and children when the accused, an auto rickshaw driver, broke an underground water pipeline that passed in front of her home. The victim told the accused to repair the break but he started to fight with her and her son and stabbed her with a knife to the chest, which resulted in her death. A newspaper report claims the victim first slapped the accused, which caused him to go to his home, retrieve the weapon and return to stab the woman.

The case was registered in the Anjar police station by the deputy superintendent of police. It was registered under Atrocities Act 3 (1) (10) and 3 (2) (5) and IPC sections 302 and 504. The F.I.R. was filed two hours after the incident, the arrest of the accused was within 24 hours and there was no delay in filing the charge sheet. Bail was not granted. A social welfare officer visited the family.

Currently the accused is in prison and the case is pending in court without judgment. There was no attempt to reach a compromise. The government social welfare fund has paid the family Rs 1.5 lakh. The victim’s family was forced to migrate to another village. Her children live with her in-laws. Her husband has no home. He migrates in order to do labour work.

Case 5: Victim 5, a 17-year-old Dalit girl and lived with her family in Mundra city, Kutch district. She was kidnapped on October 9, 2009 by the accused, a 30 year old Muslim.

The accused was familiar to the family. He and the victim had been together two or three times previous to the incident. On October 9 the victim disappeared from her home. After nine days the family registered an FIR with the police about a possible kidnapping. The accused and victim were found to be together. Charges of Atrocities Act 3 (1) (12) and IPC section 366 were filed. When the girl became 18, of legal age, she chose to return to live with the accused. A compromise was reached and no further legal action was taken.

Case 6: Victim 6 is a 17-year-old Dalit unmarried girl who lives in the village of Mothala, taluka Naliya, Kutch district. On September 13, 2009 she was kidnapped and raped by a 22 year old SC labourer from Uttar Pradesh.

The under-aged girl was living with her parents and doing masonry labour work alongside the accused. On September 13 the girl did not return home and the parents feared that she was with the man. They reported her disappearance and the police began their investigation.  The police found the daughter with the man and returned her to her parents. An FIR was filed on November 16 and the man was charged with kidnapping and rape, IPC sections 363, 366 and 376. The girl was immediately married off to another person and the family is no longer interested to pursue the charges against the accused in court for fear that the attention brought to the case will have a negative effect on the girl’s future.

Case 7: Victim 7 is a 50-year-old Dalit woman, living in the village of Naranka, taluka Morbi, Rajkot district. On 30 June 2009 at 8:00 am she was attacked and threatened by three Patel men ranging in age from 30s to 50s.

On the morning of the crime the victim left her home to collect dry firewood. While alone, outside the village, three Patel men came upon her and began to harass and beat her. They yelled the caste-based threat, “Sala Dhedao ne mari Nakho, Jivta salgavi Nakho (Burn Them Down!)”. They used an axe to cause injury to her hands and beat her on her body with a wooden stick and steel pipe. Finally they threatened to kill her if she reported the crime. It should be noted that relations between forward and backward castes in this village are particularly volatile.

Local people came to her aid and, after her husband arrived, she was taken to the government hospital for treatment. Injuries to her thumb, arm and backside were serious. Police arrived to the hospital and an FIR was filed by 11 am. The accused were arrested and immediately were released on bail. Charges of Atrocities Act 3 (1) (10) and IPC sections 324, 504 and 506 were filed. The District Superintendent of Police is responsible for the case. There was no attempt at compromise and the case continues in the court.

Case 8: Victim 8 was a 38 year-old Dalit woman and mother of three from the village of Bandra, taluka Gondal, Rajkot district. On September 18, 2009 she was found dead after hanging herself due to continuing discord with her husband. Her husband, his three siblings and two of their spouses have all been charged with harassment and abetment to suicide.

The victim and her husband were also cousins, part of an extended Dalit family. They lived together with the husband’s three siblings and their families during their fifteen years of marriage. Problems began when the husband wanted to migrate for work but his wife did not want to leave. The entire family verbally harassed her, put pressure on her to give them 50,000 rupees from her parents and encouraged her to kill herself.

Two days after her death her parents were informed and they immediately filed an FIR against the entire family. Charges include Atrocities Act 3 (1) (7) and IPC sections 306, 323 and 498-A. The case is pending without settlement as the husband and his children have gone into hiding; however the family informed the field worker that they planned to resolve the case on their own and asked him not to become involved in the matter.

Case 9: Victim 9 is a 35-year-old Dalit married woman from the village of Pipradi, taluka Jasdan, Rajkot district. On the night of 27 February 2009 at 2 am she was awoken from sleep and raped by a 45-year-old Koli Patel farmer.

The victim was alone with her three children because her husband left their home to tend his fields. The accused entered the home with a knife, covered the victim’s mouth so she would not be able to scream for help and succeeded to rape her while her children slept nearby. The next morning at 9 am she filed an FIR at the police station and the accused was arrested the next day. The charge is IPC section 376. An attempt to reach a compromise out of court was unsuccessful and the case is continuing in the court.

— Kantilal Parmar

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