A citizens’ forum* of Gujarat, consisting of five senior civil rights activists, made an on-the-spot inquiry into the Naliya sex racket following the gangrape of one of the victims. The fact-finding team’s report has been sent to President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee with the demand to go in for a high-level judicial inquiry into the racket. Text of the report:
With the passage of exactly 16 years of terrible earthquake of Gujarat, the State has once more experienced tremors of Nalia scam on 26th January 2017. Entire Gujarat was in doldrums with streaming out of the details of F.I.R. filed by the daughter that fell prey to the gang rape at Nalia, which is about 100 Kms. away from Bhuj. From the news reports, slowly and gradually it became clear that the accused are the elected representatives and office bearers of the ruling party in the State. Main accused in this episode is the convenor of BJP’s OBC Cell of Abdasa taluka.
Immediately on receiving this news, we on behalf of All India Mahila Sanskrutik Sangathan (AIMSS) sent a Memorandum through fax to the District Collector, Kutch and the Superintendent of Police for an immediate and impartial inquiry. On 10th February in association with other organizations, demonstrations were held at Lal Darwaja area of Ahmedabad and a citizens meeting was held in protest of the above incident. In this Citizens’ meeting, as was done in the case of victim of Patan incident, to wage a collective battle against this episode, unanimous decision was taken to establish a Forum of Concerned Citizens on Nalia Episode. At the same time other decisions were taken:
- To voice an appeal within and outside the Assembly pleading for justice to “Nirbhaya” of Nalia, by Open Letters to the MLAs on the 1st day of Budget Session of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly.
- To depute a team for personal investigation in to the Nalia episode.
- To send a Memorandum to H.E. the President of India, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Prime Minister, Governor of Gujarat, Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court and the Chief Minister of Gujarat for a speedy and impartial inquiry.
- To organize a rally or public function on the International Women’s Day, in protest against this episode.
In this way, two programmes have been accomplished. Open Letters to the MLAs were released to the media and Fact Finding Team paid a visit to Nalia on 20/02/17.
Details of Visit to Nalia:
A Five Member Team under the banner of this Forum visited Kutch on 20th February for on the spot investigation. These five members were (1) Dineshbhai Sanghvi, Nilpar Ashram, Rapar, Dist. Kutch, (2) Dr. Zarana Pathak, Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG), (3) Meenakshi Joshi (All India Mahila Sanskrutik Sangathan), (4) Shabana Mansuri, Advocate, (5) Balendra Vaghela, PUCL, Rajkot.
Parents of this daughter are residing at Kothara situated 10 Kms. before Nalia. Kothara village has population of about 5000 souls. When we met the parents at Kothara, on the first sight it appeared that their economic condition was weak. They were fatigued due to visits of representatives of T.V. channels, news papers etc. Even then they gradually began to share with us woes of their suffering and shock.
Details of what we gleaned from this tale are something like what follows:
Victim of this Nalia scam and gang rape case is a 19-year-old married woman. Birth and upbringing of this daughter took place at Mumbai. Currently her parents are at Kutch, of which father is a step father whereas mother is her real mother. This daughter got married at the age of sixteen years at Mumbai and 1 year thereafter differences and tension emerged. Ultimately the daughter sought divorce and came to Kutch to stay along with the parents. In the beginning of 2015 she for the first time arrived at Kutch and with that there was beginning of her troubles.
With a desire to lead a self-respectful life, she naturally hunted for a source of livelihood and secured a job with Nalia based Gas agency. None had even dreamt that this very job shah become the cause of her exploitation. With advent of Diwali festival she requested for one half month’s salary advance from Shantilal Solanki of the Gas Agency. He asked to get that amount collected from his residence.
When the daughter reached to Solanki’s residence, as was pre-planned in advance, there was none else at home. While the daughter out of shyness asserted to go back, it was insisted to return only after collecting the money. She took the money and was offered cold drink. In that drink there was some intoxicating substance and upon drinking it, she became unconscious where after gang rape (by a total three persons) was committed on her. Not only that, the incident was also video-clipped. Thereafter started succession of excesses on her.
Consternated and shocked by such excesses the distressed daughter complained of before her parent about mere fatigue only. Hence the parents decided to marry off her. She joined with marital knots with a youth from adjoining village. But that relation abruptly came to an end within a week’s time. On the other hand excesses on her went on increasing. She was taken to different places and raped at various places. Then there began blackmailing through video clips.
Wherever she turned to for complaint, in place of receiving help, she fell prey of the culprits. Feeling harassed by all this the daughter contacted her former husband, who upon realizing her suffering gave solace and comfort and both of them decided to once more lead together a married life again. Both of them again joined with marital knots.
The daughter went back to Mumbai. But there was constant blackmailing over the phone all the way from Kutch. Having felt let down and lost the courage, she attempted to commit a suicide. But the husband rescued her. Thereafter both together decided to lodge complaint against this. In the beginning of November 2016 (prior to Diwali) they contacted the MP of Kutch and narrated their woes. He assured of lodging a complaint and assured of doing the needful.
But he did nothing at all. Ultimately this daughter and the husband together lodged a complaint before the Police Station on 12th January 2017. The Police Station on 12th January affixed a stamp of “Supervisor 12, dated 1-3-17 in acknowledgement of 18/1/17 and as late as 25th January an FIR was registered on the police record.
On its details coming to the light and with involvement of media, a strong people’s voice emerged compelling the Govt. to institute a Special Investigation Team (SIT). The daughter has blamed on 10 No. of culprits and out of that 8 Nos. have been arrested, one is absconding and arrest of the remaining one is yet to be made.
While this is written, to oversee the functioning of the SIT, the Govt. has also announced formation of yet another team of police officers.
Subsequent to the arrival of rally led by Opposition party from Nalia up to Gandhinagar at the time of commencement of budget session of Legislative Assembly and the understanding between the Opposition and the ruling party blowing hot and cold in the same breath and announcement of demand for judicial inquiry, various issues have cropped up.
Nalia episode – a tip of the iceberg:
Let us look at the statistics of excesses over the women in Gujarat during the year 2016. A total of 5879 cases out of which rape cases numbering 472, whereas in Kutch, during last six months there have been 117 No. of rape cases and 299 No. of domestic violence cases. These are merely the statistics registered on record.
After the year 2002 menace of gang rapes has spread like an epidemic. Looking over the last 8 years all the incidents that took place such as at Patan, Pilwai, Asharam, Parul University etc. all were the incidents of gang rapes. Another pertinent point is such that in all these incidents, there was patronage or protection by the ruling party.
The worst point of Nalia episode is that it is an all pervading sex racket. In comparison to incidents that took place till this date it is distinct than others in the sense that it is not localized. It is suspected that ruling party’s office-bearers all throughout the State might be involved in it.
After the earthquake which destroyed Kutch massively, in the rehabilitation plan merely road development took place. Industries came up but without added employment. Due to this it has become quite easy to exploit any one gripped in the economic crisis. In this incident were added patriarchy system, globalization – liberalization and convictions affirmed by the market forces that woman is an object of consumption and a means of entertainment. Moreover in view of old beliefs of prestige, women desist from lodging complaint and hence they were exploited. At the same time in the wake of prevalent outdated values the criticism and insult of the victim result or prove to be adding salt to the injury.
Hence the Nalia incident has been the alarm of danger signals for all of us. This is indeed an infamous illustration as to what could be the exploitation of a woman who has been divorced, weak economic conditions of her parents and amidst it trying to become self reliant. It is also an eye opener as to how far the modern technology – videography and social media aid and add to the exploitation of women.
Will justice really be meted out?
A lot of information about the incident has come to the light. But fear persists as to whether or not will this daughter get justice? According to her, in this racket 35 more women have been made the victims and there are 65 more culprits. Whether arrest of these criminals be made? Will they be punished?
Let us all together as a civic society become active and united to give a common and combined fight with the following demands:
- Inquiry into the entire incident under the direct supervision of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, including the cases of sexual exploitation of 35 women by some 65 culprits, as also indepth and thorough inquiry in to this episode after recovering the C.D. in possession with the Leader of Opposition and with the Dy. C.M. (Gujarat).
- This inquiry should be completed within a specific time limit of 3 months.
- Also punish the elected M.P. of Kutch, Police and the erring Home Deptt. for indirectly sheltering and shielding the culprits in this whole incident.
- Not only that, responsibility of the State and the National Women’s Commission should also be fixed.
- Victimized daughter should be provided immediate financial assistance of Rs. 10 lakhs as a special case and that the State Govt. should accept the responsibility of complete rehabilitation of this daughter.
- The Home Department should periodically – every week, make public, the status report on the progress in the inquiry.
- The Civic Society and the Women’s Organizations should get together to evolve an active, long term system such that such incidents can be eradicated forever.
In order that the people become aware, sensitized and voice their feelings the Concerned Citizens Forum should chalk out programmes such as rally, demonstrations, agitation, conventions etc.
*Forum of Concerned Citizens on Nalia Incident