As the investigation gets underway, the teen said her father’s death had robbed her of hope, while police questioned ‘inconsistencies’ in her account.
Unnao: She says she knew the touch was not innocent when it first happened, at age 11. However, according to the Unnao teenager who has accused Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of rape, it took her a lot of time to wade through the confusion and fear, and speak up.
She did not know who to complain to and what to say, as the person who made her uncomfortable was someone with immense clout in their village, Maakhi, Kuldeep Singh Sengar. The man she referred to as ‘daddu’, the man her father worked for, the man who has been an MLA for over 15 years, and the one treated as the ‘almighty’.
He would reportedly stop her from going to school, claiming to protect her from “bad influences” and often locked her inside his room for hours. As she stepped out of his house, his men stalked her. Sick of the harassment, she finally dropped out in class 8. When she tried to confide in her mother, her complaints were dismissed. She was asked to keep quiet and bear with it.
On 4 June 2017, Sanger allegedly called her home, took her to his room and raped her, while an accomplice sat outside. She was 16. Although Sanger has dismissed the allegations as “baseless and a conspiracy to tarnish his image”, the teenager said it took a lot of courage for her to speak out against a man with such a strong political backing.
But now she wishes she hadn’t.
Death in custody
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Her case made national headlines last weekend, when, alleging police inaction, she threatened to set herself on fire outside Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence.
Earlier in the month, her father was allegedly attacked by the MLA’s brother Atul and their associates to force the family to withdraw their complaint. The ensuing brawl spawned two police complaints, one by the teen’s family and the second by the alleged assaulters. However, while the father was arrested, the brother was reportedly not even booked.
A lot has happened since: The four-term MLA has claimed innocence; the Unnao teen’s father has died, allegedly of injuries sustained in the attack; the national spotlight on the case has led to Atul’s arrest for the alleged assault; and inquiries by a UP police special investigation team as well as a magistrate have been ordered in the matter.
However, as the investigation gets underway, the teen said her father’s death had robbed her of hope. “Police arrested my father instead of taking him to hospital, and he died in custody. I consider myself the loser in this battle,” she added. “I accept my defeat. I feel I should not have raised my voice against this man. At least my father would have been alive today.”
Sengar, whose ancestral house in Maakhi is a palatial bungalow, has been an MLA for 16 years, his current term as the BJP representative for Bangarmau being his fourth. He has switched between three parties since 2002, when he was elected the MLA for Nau Sadar on a BSP ticket. In 2007 and 2012, he was elected from Bangarmau and Bhagwantnagar, respectively, on an SP ticket.
Politics is virtually a family profession for the Sengars: The MLA’s mother Chinni Devi headed the gram panchayat for over 50 years; his wife Sangeeta is the Unnao zila adhyaksh; and his sister-in-law, Atul’s wife, the pradhan for Maakhi.
“He is very influential. He has held power through generations and no one questions him here,” said a local.
“He also runs a sand mining business and owns two ghats. However, he is re-elected each time because he listens to people’s demands and works for them,” the local added.
His brothers, however, are notorious troublemakers, especially for the alleged sexual harassment of local women, and face several criminal cases.
On 4 June, 2017, the teen said, Sengar invited her home with the promise of a job. When she arrived, she added, he took her to his room and raped her while an accomplice kept vigil outside.
“I screamed. I knew people were sitting outside in the corridor, but no one came to help me. After raping me, he asked me to leave and straightaway return home,” she said.
“I was crying. He wiped my tears and told me that he would get me a good job. When I told him I would file a complaint, he threatened to kill my father and four-year-old brother.
“I went back home and kept quiet,” she said, “I was in pain. My mother kept asking me if I was fine. My sisters asked me why I was not smiling, but I kept quiet.”
‘Abducted, sedated, gang-raped’
Seven days after the episode, she said, when she stepped out of her house to call a plumber, she was “abducted” by three men in an SUV. For the next nine days, she was allegedly kept intoxicated and gang-raped, and repeatedly moved to different locations.
“The men kept me on sedatives… Once I even tried to flee, but I was caught and sedated again. The men then took turns to rape me,” she said. “I recognised two of them as Sengar’s men as I had seen them around his house.”
She added that the trio had also tried to “sell her off”. “One of the men had struck a deal with a man to sell me off for Rs 60,000. However, they could not as police had started looking for them,” she added.
After her mother reported her missing, police launched a search for her. When the abductors came to know police were on their trail, they dropped her back. A case was subsequently filed on 20 June and the three suspected assailants — Shubham Singh, Brijesh Yadav and Awadh Narayan — were arrested.
The teenager’s mother said she had, from the beginning, alleged abduction, but police didn’t register a case, treating it as a missing person’s complaint. “They said she must have eloped with someone and asked me to return home. For nine days I kept going back to the police station but they did not register a case,” she said.
Police, however, deny the allegation. “We did not receive any complaint (of abduction) before. The day the complaint was filed, 20 June, a case was registered at the Maakhi police station under sections 363 (kidnapping) and 366 (kidnapping a woman to compel her for marriage) of the Indian Penal Code,” Unnao superintendent of police Pushpanjali Devi said.
“After an investigation, we also added Section 376D (gang rape) of the IPC and sections 3 & 4 of the POCSO Act. The chargesheet has also been submitted in court,” she added.
Surprisingly, the teenager’s medical examination was conducted five days after her rescue. While police said the victim was not ready for one immediately after her ordeal, she claimed she was never asked to get it done.
Once back home, she left Unnao for Delhi to stay with her uncle and aunt.
Threats to withdraw case
In Delhi, she told her aunt about the rape. When she shared it with her husband, he got furious and immediately called up his brother, the teen’s father.
“Papa got very angry. At first, he could not believe that Sengar… could do such a thing. He went straight to his house but could not find him there,” the teenager’s sister said.
“He asked my sister to return to Unnao and file a complaint with police. After that day, he stopped going to Sengar’s house,” she added.
The teenager returned to Unnao in August, but when she went to file a complaint, police allegedly didn’t accept her complaint. She then moved court, seeking a direction to police to file a case of rape against Sengar. Eight months since, a case is yet to be registered.
“We have been receiving threats to withdraw the application,” said the teen. “I got so harrowed that I tried to set myself afire. On 6 April, my father was mercilessly thrashed by Sengar’s brother Atul Singh and his men after he refused to take the complaint back, but no one from the administration seems to care,” she added.
There are discrepancies in the accounts about the date of the assault: While police claim it happened on 3 April, the family’s accounts alternate between 3 and 6 April, a fact that has stoked doubts among police.
Sengar allegedly also approached her uncle, who shared with ThePrint the purported recording of a call from the MLA. On the tape, a man the uncle claims is the MLA is heard saying, “Stop your people, who are moving these applications against me. Are you not my brother? You have worked for me for so long, how could you do this? Make the girl understand that I will get her married. Get the girl’s mother to my house, I will serve her tea. Let’s end this cordially.”
Why no case against MLA yet
Announcing that an SIT would look into “all aspects of the matter”, Uttar Pradesh additional director general of police (law and order) Anand Kumar added, “The law says that if there is a gap of three months between a complaint of rape and the incident itself, an inquiry should be conducted before a case is filed, which is why an SIT has been formed.”
“The SIT is assessing the allegations with an unbiased view. When it discovered that local police had not registered a case against Sengar’s brother (for the assault) with a mala fide intention, it immediately ordered the suspension of errant officials,” he added.
He said there were several inconsistencies in the teen’s statement. “There are too many complaints, versions, and dates that have been mentioned. In fact, there are two different dates of the same incident mentioned in a complaint. All this needs to be looked into as these are serious allegations,” Kumar said
The teenager, however, said the case needed to be handed over to the CBI. She said, “It took a lot of courage and cost me my father’s life to speak against a person this strong. My family is destroyed, but he is still roaming free… Just because he is well connected and has money while we are poor? Can I really expect justice from this administration?”
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