New Delhi: Almost everyone in the lower middle class locality of Delhi’s Shahdara saw her being beaten up, then paraded with sandals around her neck, her face blackened, her hair shaved off. She was dragged across, screaming, through the neighbourhood lanes, but no one offered to help, including her well-off relatives. No one wants to talk about the horrifying incident. The room where she was allegedly gangraped, then assaulted, is now locked from outside.
Some residents took videos, while others watched from their rooftops. A jeering mob walked behind the battered victim and the band of accused — almost all women — who continued to pulverise her.
The 20-year-old woman, mother of a two-year-old son, was allegedly abducted, confined in a room, gangraped, tonsured, and then dragged around and further beaten up with sticks Wednesday, as the rest of Delhi and India celebrated India’s 73rd Republic Day.
Sources in the Delhi Police said that the women involved in the incident “provoked” and “instigated” the minor males accused to perform “unnatural sex (oral sex)” with her. “They pushed their private parts into her mouth,” a senior Delhi Police officer said, adding that she was also “beaten up with sticks”.
The motive for such a gruesome, heinous assault? Police sources attributed the crime to “personal enmity” and said that the accused “wanted to teach the woman a lesson as they held her responsible for their 16-year-old boy’s death”. The victim is said have known the teenager, who committed suicide on 12 November by jumping in front of a train. The accused family blamed the victim for the boy’s death and threatened and harassed her incessantly.
Delhi Police sources said that the boy and the woman had known each other since she was 16 and he was 13.
His elder brother, mother and father, are accused in the case. The 37-year-old father, who has multiple cases lodged against him, is a history sheeter, the police said.
Police registered an FIR on 26 Jan under sections related to abduction, wrongful confinement, physical and sexual assualt and gangrape of the IPC against 11 people — eight women, one man and two minors. The woman, Delhi Police sources said, had identified the 11 and named them in the FIR, out of which nine have been arrested, including the 16-year-old’s father and mother.
“A police team reached the spot immediately after the PCR call was made. The woman was rescued and her statement was recorded. All necessary actions and efforts are being made to identify and arrest the accused. So far 11 have been booked, including nine arrests, two are juveniles,” DCP Shahdara, R. Sathiyasundaram said.
Paralysed father, struggle to make PCR call
At the victim’s maternal home in Kasturba Nagar, her two-year-old’s wails can be heard from a distance. He has never been away from his mother, the victim’s sister said. She keeps telling him, “Mummy tika lagane gayi hai (Mummy has gone to take an injection)”.
The woman is currently in a ‘safe house’, recovering from the trauma and the physical torture that she was subjected to. Her younger sister, 18, called the woman’s husband over the phone Friday when ThePrint visited. “She can’t move or get up, her back is covered with wounds. They hit her continuously, there are injuries all over,” he told her.
“I spoke to her only once since the incident, Thursday night. She kept crying and only asked after her son,” the sister said. The accused live right opposite to them.
In the cramped one-room apartment, their father lay on a bed. The 52-year-old man, who once worked as an autorickshaw driver, met with an accident a few years back and has since been paralysed. The accident also left him somewhat mentally disturbed. Right above his bed, in which he remains the entire day, is a photo of his wife, who died of a heart attack in 2020. Their only means of livelihood is from the auto — Rs 300 a day.
When his daughter was being paraded and assaulted in full public view, her father could only helplessly wonder about all the commotion. “There was no one around to sit me in the wheelchair and take me to my daughter,” he said.
“My sister kept screaming (during the attack in the room), everyone heard, it’s a small area. People came out on the streets and spoke about it. But no one dared to open the door to the room where she was being sexually assaulted. Her loud cries for mercy keep ringing in our ears,” the sister said.
“I had to beg around for a phone call to the PCR, as the women in the mob had snatched away my phone. I had my nephew with me, so I locked myself in the house, or else they would have raped me and hurt the child. No one helped us, not even our paternal relatives,” said the 18-year-old, who studied till Class 9 and then dropped out owing to their deteriorating economic conditions.
“I saw her with her head shaved off, her face blackened and her being repeatedly slapped, from the terrace,” she said, adding that her sister had lovely, long hair.
Later, a relative let her make the call around 1 pm.
‘Bad reputation in the area’
According to the family, the victim was married in 2018, and lived with her husband and infant son in a rented house in Karkardooma, about 10-minute drive from the crime spot.
In recent months, they had to keep their address discreet, as they were repeatedly subjected to threats, assault and intimidation from the accused following the suicide of the teenager, who was said to be in ‘love’ with her.
When ThePrint asked about the assault to the sisters’ aunt, who lives next door, she denied being at home at that time. Most relatives and neighbours also refused to talk about the incident, except a few, who said that the accused sell illegal liquor and peddle narcotic substances. The family has a “bad reputation in the area and nobody dares to mess with them”, they added.
‘I had to make a choice’
On 26 January around 11 am, the victim called her sister to drop off a sack of wheat in her house. When the 18-year-old left in an e-rickshaw, four of the accused followed her in an autorickshaw, she alleged.
“As soon as my sister came downstairs, they started hitting her and pushed her into their auto. They tried to snatch the child too, but I somehow held on to him, hopped into the rickshaw, and asked the driver to go fast. One of the accused women snatched my phone away when she saw me making a call, one of the boys in the group caught hold of my neck. I rushed home and bolted the door,” the sister said.
Next, after a brief while, the sister saw the accused bring the victim to their lane, and then drag her into the room. Then, after the sexual and physical assault in the room, came the gruesome spectacle of the parade, the severe beatings and the loud hooting by neighbours.
“I had to make a choice, my sister or the child. She wanted the child to be protected,” the sister said.
From her terrace, when she requested her neighbours, also watching from adjacent terraces, to make a phone call to the police, they kept asking her why, the 18-year-old alleged. The assault, she said, went on for about an hour before the police could be informed.
The sister also attests to the accused’s prime motive. “They blame my sister for the boy’s death,” she said.
History of assault and intimidation
A week back, on 20 January, the accused family also allegedly assaulted the victim’s aunt when she had visited, confined her in a room and threatened to cut off her hair. The sister shared with ThePrint a complaint she claimed they filed with the local police station after the incident but no FIR was registered.
In the complaint, the 18-year-old mentioned how the accused family has been harassing and heckling them as well as anyone who visited them, and had threatened her with rape.
“A PCR call was made when the aunt was harassed. Police reached the spot and spoke to both parties,” a senior police officer said.
On being asked why the FIR wasn’t registered by the police, DCP Sathiyasundaram said: “We are looking into the matter.”
On 19 January, the accused had also set fire to the family’s autorickshaw, the family alleged.
“The boy would keep harassing my sister through phone calls. She wouldn’t come home, if it wasn’t for our sick father. She kept telling him that she is married and has a child, but he would not stop,” the sister said.
The sisters’ grandmother, who lives in Haryana, is staying at the residence in Shahdara now. She said she had spoken with her grand daughter right when she was kidnapped.
“I called her that day around 11, she said she is fine and that the younger sister is getting her a sack of wheat. Within the next two minutes, I heard her screaming on the phone, before it went silent,” she told ThePrint.
“They threatened us, saying that the daughters would be abducted and raped. The younger one was so scared that she came to live with us in Haryana in December and came back only a few days back,” the grandmother said.
The locality in Shahdara is dominated by a migrant population who are mostly engaged in trade, or run small businesses.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)