Hapur: For the 29-year-old woman who has been the victim of a series of alleged rapes in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh, the horror was not just the ordeal she went through physically, but also the social prejudice.
In her village — Shyampur Jatt — the woman is perceived to have a suspicious character, a person who wears make-up and has allegedly been with multiple men. Far from extending support, the women in her village blame her for bringing them a bad name. For the villagers, it is hard to believe a woman’s rape allegations because she married twice and then eloped with another man.
The woman, a native of Shaishpura village in Hapur, is now admitted at a Delhi hospital with 60 to 70 per cent burn injuries after she set herself on fire on 28 April.
Her life is now stuck between deep-rooted social bias and hope for justice.
‘Why doesn’t she die?’
For the victim’s parents, the biggest crime seems to be the fact that she eloped with her current husband, 27, and this seems to invalidate her rape allegations.
When this reporter showed the image of the victim’s severe burn injuries to her father, he said, “I do not care whether she lives or dies. She has spoilt my name. No relative will ever visit us.”
Her mother, meanwhile, remained silent while looking at the images and videos of her daughter.
One of her uncles said, “Why would she immolate herself? I am not aware of her entire story, but there should be proper investigation into the case.”
Her current father-in-law said if something was wrong, she should have told him. “I would have found some solution,” added the retired Army man. On the rape accusations, he said, “Poor families are often subjected to exploitation.”
But he also blamed the woman for ruining his son’s career. “I had sent him to Meerut so he could prepare for Army recruitment. God knows who taught him all this nonsense about justice.”
A woman in the village, after seeing the video of the victim’s burnt body, said, “Why doesn’t she die? The whole village is suffering because of her!” Others agreed.
“How can we believe a woman who has married twice and also eloped with someone?” asked another villager.
The villagers also called the victim’s husband “insane”, saying he only talks about justice for his wife.
Police version is different
Officers at the Babugarh police station in Hapur claimed several complaints of prostitution had been filed against the victim. But police could not tell what action was taken against her.
A police officer claimed the woman’s father had told them that she was engaged in prostitution and she should be hanged.
The victim’s father, however, rubbished the claim and said: “Yes, I was in a fit of anger, but I never said anything like this.”
‘First husband tortured me for dowry’
In 2009, the woman married her first husband, who divorced her three years later after she delivered a premature baby.
“My first child was born prematurely in the seventh month of pregnancy. After that, my husband started asking for dowry. It led to daily fights and finally we got separated,” she said.
In his statement to police, the husband claimed she had delivered a baby barely five months after marriage and because of this he doubted her character, resulting in their divorce in 2012.
The victim’s wedding was then fixed with a man from Shyampur Jatt, who worked as a labourer.
The woman has alleged in the FIR that her husband’s employers had raped her as he was under a huge debt. She claimed her husband took loans from his employers on high interest. She also alleged they were never paid wages and, when they asked for it, she was raped.
‘No help from police or village head’
The woman’s current husband told ThePrint that he met his wife when she came to his house last year to work as a domestic help. It was during this time the woman narrated her ordeal of alleged serial rapes and abuse.
He claimed he immediately contacted the village pradhan, but he tried to suppress the matter as two of his own family members were involved in the alleged sexual abuse.
The village pradhan, however, refuted the allegations and said neither the victim nor her husband had submitted any complaint to him.
The victim’s husband claimed his wife had written several police complaints and asked for the custody of her children, but police never took any cognisance of the matter. The victim said she had three children — one from her first husband, one from an alleged rape, and a third from her second husband.
Hapur police claimed all complaints were only regarding custody of the woman’s children and not against rape. “This matter (the rape) is being raised since the last 15 days only,” said a police officer.
Responding to this, the victim said, “I had filed a complaint about rape on the Women’s Helpline number.”
“I am not lying. Why will I lie to the extent of burning myself?” she asked.