Preeti Das, senior journalist with the “Daily News and Analysis” (DNA), Ahmedabad, has been awarded the prestigious Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity 2015-16 in the Investigative Series Category for her stories on rape and missing toilets and gangrape victim. The award was conferred to her on February 23, 2017 at Gujarat Sahitya Parishad, Ahmedabad. Das were selected after gender sensitive stories published in all English newspapers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Goa, Diu and Daman were scanned. We reproduce below the stories which have won her the award:
June 27, 2015
‘Let court keep the baby, I don’t want it’
Pregnant gang rape victim, due to deliver baby soon; Gujarat HC had in April rejected her plea for abortion
Childbirths are known to be enjoyable experiences for women, but not for this one. Forced by Gujarat High Court to continue her pregnancy, 24-year-old gang rape victim Nisha is desperately waiting for the day when she delivers the baby and hands it over to Botad district collector. The baby is due anytime.
Nisha does not talk to her family and eats little. She is unhappy. On April 16, 2015, Gujarat HC had rejected her petition to abort the foetus on the grounds that law does not allow termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. (She was 21 weeks pregnant when she escaped her abductors.)
Nisha was asked ‘to go ahead bravely and deliver the baby’. The government sanctioned Rs20,000 and ambulance service at her doorstep for monthly check-up at Bhavnagar Civil Hospital to ‘help her’.
“This baby will remind me of the torture I was subjected to for seven months. Out of respect for law, I have not aborted the baby but once born, it does not belong to me,” she said. (Names of people changed).
June 27, 2015 (continued)
Gang rape victim nearing the end of her ‘forced pregnancy’
She has to carry the baby for the full term, and deliver it as per the Guj HC’s orders ; The gang rape victim can’t wait to give away the baby & end her ordeal
Devaliya (Botad): An expectant mother who is due to deliver in the next few days is waiting to get rid of her unborn baby. A plethora of emotions overpower her. She hates the baby because everyone around her expects her to.
But she also wants to see the baby once and hold it before giving it away to the district collector. Nisha (name changed) is carrying the child of one of her rapists because the Gujarat High Court ‘ordered’ her to do so. Nisha refuses to eat and stares at the wall all day. She is praying that her labour pain starts soon and she can get over with the whole ordeal. She feels the kick of the child and does not know how to react to it.
“I really wish the child had died in the womb. It will be a constant reminder of the gang rape I was subjected to and that is why I will give it away as soon as it is born,” says a crestfallen Nisha.
The gang rape survivor
Nisha’s gang rape made headlines not because of the brutality of the rape but because of all that ensued after she escaped. On April 16, 2015, Nisha was denied the freedom of aborting her 21-week foetus and was asked to ‘go ahead bravely and have the baby’.
The reason stated by the court was that the law does not allow termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. She has been counting days since the judgment. Nisha was brought up in Devaliya village in Botad district and got married to a Calcutta-based man from the same community. Her husband sells clothes for a living.
Nisha understands a few Bengali words and remembers her trip to Victoria Memorial with her husband and sons. She misses eating ‘jhal muri’. Her husband shifted to Surat barely a year ago for better prospects. Nisha was abducted from Surat and kept in captivity for over six months. She was beaten up and gang raped but managed to miraculously escape. However, the rapists had impregnated her.
“The court asked me to keep the child and I am doing just that. But I will give the child away as soon as it is born. No one in my house wants the baby. My whole community has stopped talking to me and will accept me only after the child is delivered and given away,” said Nisha.
Recollecting the horror of the six months she says, “I was kept in different places and atleast four people would rape me every night one after the other. They would keep me in the cow shed and some days I would not be given food. I was beaten with stick and various other objects.”
She lifts her sari and shows the scars and bruises on her thighs and legs. She is still unable to walk properly. “The baby kicks inside. What do I do? I want to see the face of the baby and hold it once before giving it away. I know the baby will need to be breastfed but I cannot because then it will be wrong. Won’t it?” asks Nisha while wiping her tears.
Kesarben, the whistleblower
Nisha’s mother is popular as the whistleblower of Devaliya. She has been fighting against members of the Dafer community for hunting deer and nilgais. A handful of them planned to kidnap her eldest daughter as revenge. The moment they learnt that she had shifted to Surat, they traced her whereabouts and kidnapped her.
“Just because I raise my voice against injustice my daughter gets kidnapped and gang raped. I am scared now. I have another younger daughter and two of the accused are free. We have kept the baby due to the law. But we have no help. Is this because we are poor,” asked a distraught Kesarben.
Nisha’s husband is with her at Devaliya but does not speak to her or look at her. He is forced to sells clothes in Bhavnagar as the villagers make fun of him. He says he will accept Nisha after she delivers the baby. As part of the cleansing ritual, Nisha will have to ‘admit’ to her mistakes. Nisha and her family belong to the Devipoojak community. She will have to undergo the ‘shuddikaran’ process in front of her community.
Out of the seven accused, two still seem unfazed by the prospect of arrest. One of them is out on bail and lives in the lane next to Nisha’s house. He runs into Kesarben regularly and threatens to rape her younger daughter as well. The other is an influential man of the neighboring village and claims that no one can do anything to him.
Maitri Karar or escape route?
Brazenly, the accused forced Nisha to stamp her thumb impression on a Maitri Karar agreement on a stamp paper that was signed by a notary. Nisha claims that she had no idea what the document was about.
The mockery of the state
The Gujarat HC also ruled that she would be taken care of. But all she got was Rs20,000 and an ambulance service at her door step. The ambulance takes her to Bhavnagar Civil Hospital about 90 Kms away. “It is a dirty hospital. I hate going there,” said Nisha.
There are two police personnel – a man and a woman – for her security. One of them stays 24 hours and the other does the day shift. Ironically, the policewoman herself is seven months pregnant with her first child and is excited about it while Nisha struggles with her ordeal.
Guj HC will soon have a baby
In a week from now, a baby will be given to the Gujarat HC or a representative on its behalf. Nisha and her family are clear they will have nothing to do with the baby. No one knows what the fate of the unborn child will be.
(The names of the rape survivor and her family have been changed)
July 1, 2015
Gang rape victim’s cries reach CMO
Ahmedabad: The authorities, who were turning a blind eye to the serious threat to the life of Nisha, the gangrape victim, have jumped into action after the CMO directed them to up security for the family. The directive comes in the wake of a series of stories by dna highlighting Nisha’s plight and the threat to her life.
Highly placed sources in chief minister’s office said instructions have been issued to police to provide adequate security to Nisha and her family members, who too face a threat from accused persons. “The chief minister is aware of this case, and has asked officials to keep track of it,” said a senior official in the CMO.
Nisha, who was gangraped by four people over seven months, and impregnated in the process, is about to deliver the child after she was denied permission to undergo abortion by HC. The police have so far deployed just one policeman and a seven-month pregnant policewoman for her security. However, offi cials say, the security is being beefed up following CMO’s intervention.
“I got a call from the CMO when your paper reported the story. I am now taking regular follow up and will ensure there are no more threats. I will personally look into the matter,” Junagadh range DIG Brajesh Kumar Jha told dna. He also said he would follow up until the baby was born and handed over to a responsible party.
September 22, 2015
Gangrape victim’s SOS: Accused free, no security for her
Ahmedabad: While you are reading this, chances are that a gangrape survivor, 24-yr old Nisha, maybe attacked by her tormentors. The Gujarat High Court on Monday set three of the seven accused free and the authorities are not picking up her SOS calls for her protection.
The vulnerable dalit woman and her husband are at the mercy of fate. Nisha’s abduction and gangrape had made news when on April 16 this year when HC rejected her plea for abortion of the foetus conceived out of rape.
“I am extremely worried as the three accused are out on bail. They live nearby and we had been threatened that once they are out they will not leave us. I have a younger sister and brother and I am worried for their security,” said Nisha. After the case gained popularity, the state arranged for a full-time constable for her security.
“A few days ago, Nisha’s family saw that the constable had invited members of the rapists’ families and was chatting away with them. How will they be safe when the constable is friendly with the friends of the rapists? The constable is stationed at the house. But what about the threats that the family members receive when they go to fill water or wash clothes?” remarked Sardar Mori, a local activist.
Two accused Alam Dafer and Ismail Dafer were granted bail and the third accused Sarpanch Mayur Rathod was granted anticipatory bail by Justice AJ Desai on Monday. Out of the remaining four accused, one has claimed to be a juvenile and his case will be up for hearing soon.
Collector of Botad district SK Pandya and Botad district superintendent of police SK Gadhvi did not respond to dna’s repeated calls and messages. (Name of victim changed to protect identity)
September 23, 2015
‘What is his fault?’
2 mnths later, gangrape victim wants baby back
She claims she was pressurised to part with her son, conceived in rape
Ahmedabad: “What is the fault of the baby?” asks Nisha, a gangrape survivor. The story of this gutsy woman, who was forced by Gujarat High Court to deliver a baby conceived out of rape, has taken a new turn. After giving up her son at birth, she now wants him back.
Her longing is shared by her husband. And, they are willing to fight the community and the government for it. Nisha was abducted from Surat and gang-raped for 8 months. When she finally managed to escape, she discovered that she was around 20 weeks pregnant. She had approached HC with a plea for abortion.
The plea was rejected and she delivered the baby on July 8 this year. “I had to appeal for abortion because of the pressure put on me by my mother and my community members. I was warned by my community members to let go of the baby as soon as it was born. I was very scared,” said Nisha, 24. She was not allowed to see or feed the baby, currently at a bal-ashram.
In the last one month Nisha tried to committee suicide twice — once by consuming 50 pills and then again by tying a noose around her neck. “I wanted to touch and feed it but my elders were with me all the time. Even if he came out of rape, he is my baby and I will love him as much as my other two sons,” said a teary-eyed Nisha.
“When we tried to get in touch with the bal ashram to see the baby we were told that now Nisha has nothing to do with the baby and she cannot take him. We were told that we will need government permission to allow the mother to be with the child. Is this fair?” Sardarsinh Mori, a local activist, questioned.
(Names of the victim and her husband changed to protect identity.)
April 3, 2016
She was raped as her village has no toilets
Woman was dragged while defecating in open; only 3% population in 1,250-strong village in Botad district has access to toilets
Botad: Bubavav is just like any other village in Gujarat—quiet and nondescript. Except that a lot lies behind that façade. dna had on Saturday reported that a woman of the village was raped by two men, but the police had failed to register an FIR for a week. With more details emerging, it now seems that the victim, Manju, is not the only one to have met the fate.
In fact, her eldest daughter Maya was raped six months ago, that too by the same men who raped her. According to villagers, there have been at least four rapes in the last one year in the village dominated by Koli Patels. The reason could come as a huge embarrassment to chief minister Anandiben Patel.
This village of 250 familes (population approximately 1250) has just six-seven toilets, forcing residents to defecate in the open. Since the women have to go when it is dark, they are extremely vulnerable. The four rapes that the villagers talked about took place when the victim had gone to relieve herself. Manju was raped on the night of March 25 when she had gone near the village pond to defecate.
“That night, when I was there, Arvind (one of the accused) overpowered me. He gagged me with my sari and carried me to the terrace of the village school and raped me,” said Manju, as she wiped her tears. Following the incident, when she returned home and tried to get help, another man named Ramesh walked in and raped her. “We try to go in groups to remain safe in the dark but there are times when we have to go alone. I have been harassed many times,” admits 19-year-old Maya as she reveals that she was raped too.
The mother-daughter duo is the first in the village to have insisted on lodging an FIR against their rapists. Manju had to wait for a week before the police filed an FIR. All these days, she could not bathe or change her clothes for fear of destroying the evidence. The cops finally registered an FIR on Friday night. (Names of rape survivors changed to protect identity)
April 3, 2016 (continued)
‘Rape victims are gagged by social pressure’, says a survivor of double rapes in Botad district
According to villagers, at least four rapes have taken place in last one year in Bubavav village of Ranpur town in Botad district. The figure could be much higher, but villagers refuse to come out in the open for fear of a backlash. Young victims are discouraged from speaking up about their trauma with a warning that no one will marry them if the truth comes out.
While the latest victim, 40-year-old Manju, was raped on March 25, her eldest daughter was raped six months ago. At that time she had confided in her father, but he told her to keep mum. The reason: No one would marry a rape victim.
However, while writing her mother’s rape complaint on Thursday, Maya broke down and told the police that she too had been raped six months ago by the same men who had raped her mother. Manju decided to battle all odds and fi le an FIR despite being asked by most people to come to a settlement. The Ranpur police fi led a joint FIR of the mother-daughter on Friday.
“I was not too sure about what happened to my daughter. I had asked her a few times but she confi ded in me just a few days ago. I asked her to fi le an FIR. Our whole family feels threatened in the village. I have two daughters and both had to leave school because of the fear of people like Arvind and Ramesh who seem to get away with such acts,” said Manju. (Names changed)
April 4, 2016
Tale of Rapes and Missing Toilets
FIR brings hope for Botad village
Local MLA begins inquiry into lack of toilets in village after dna’s report
Ahmedabad: Phones have been ringing more frequently than earlier, the MLA is on his toes and the governmentappointed contractor is trying desperately to come up with convincing answers for lapses. A day after dna highlighted the plight of women in Bubavav village of Ranpur taluka in Botad district in absence of toilets, things have started moving in this nondescript village.
The story ‘She was raped as her village has no toilets’ had revealed that women were harassed and even raped when they went out in the dark to defecate. “Someone asked us today if we need mobile toilets. Toilets near our houses will be of help and we would not have to wait for sunset to relieve ourselves,” said Manju, who was raped on March 25 when she had gone out to defecate.
“Most girls my age have been harassed when they go in the dark to defecate. Even if girls are raped, they will not admit as they fear they will not get a groom,” said Maya, Manju’s daughter. (Names of victims changed.)