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Rape happens, and with frightening regularity in the VIP constituency of India’s most powerful woman, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. On December 18, she had rushed to Safdarjung Hospital to meet the 23-year-old paramedic who had been brutally gangraped two days earlier. Perhaps local Congressmen should also sensitise her to the facts in her own constituency.
Last year, there were 25 reported cases of rape in Rae Bareli. Local sources say this is less than the actual number of rapes and crimes against women. Pressure on the victims’ families to keep silent or change their statements for the sake of keeping the law and order record clean in the VIP area usually works.
In the month since the Dec 16 incident in Delhi enraged the entire nation, police records note three cases of rape and at least 12 of molestation, attempt to rape and crime against women in Rae Bareli. Indeed, Congress voters say that despite the violence against women in Rae Bareli, the Nehru-Gandhi family has never really addressed the issue or sought to support and stand for the victims’ families. One of the political advisors to the late Indira Gandhi, senior advocate Amaresh Chandra Srivastava, told Outlook, “The present Gandhi family is taking the constituency for granted; they have no sympathy for the victims. The law and order situation is worse than ever, and molestations, rapes and murders are in the news from the constituency almost daily.”
Loyalists to the family, however, counter that if there is a failure of law and order, it’s the responsibility of the state government. Local voices persist regardless, asking if she could go to meet a rape victim in Jind, Haryana, in October last year, then meet the Delhi rape victim, why can’t she have sympathy for the victims in Rae Bareli? Is it because they are poor, many from Dalit and rural households, and there is no media campaign about them, Srivastava asks.
In fact, when Sonia Gandhi was visiting the rape victim in Delhi on Dec 18, Rahul was in Amethi along with J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah and Priyanka was in Rae Bareli. Rahul was telling Omar, his friend from another political dynasty, about the great success of women self-help groups while Priyanka was telling schoolgirls to write their complaints and send them to her. Around the same time, Shilpa, a young girl from the Sareni area of the constituency, was molested by goons, and when she tried to file a complaint with the police, she along with her father Harishankar was beaten up and abused by the goons.
Then, on December 20, a case of gangrape was reported from Bhadokhar village, while a few days later, one more case of rape was reported from Harbandhanpur village of Unchahar. In another case of rape from Kandrawan of Unchahar, the police instead of registering the case, concentrated all its energies on working out a compromise between the families of the victim and the accused, who are from the same Yadav caste.
There has been no let-up either at the beginning of the new year. On January 5, there was an attempt to rape a five-year-old girl in the Dariba area of the city kotwali. Again, while 10 million were taking a holy dip at the Mahakumbh in Allahabad, a 10-year-old girl was rescued from the clutches of a 35-year-old neighbour in the Arkha area of Rae Bareli on January 15. Additional SP Rahul Raj claims that all cases related to crimes against women are taken seriously but records show that at least two cases were registered in the last couple of weeks only after the intervention of the court; the police had refused to record the complaint.