From Jind to Delhi via Rohtak: The tortuous path to justice

 

Sanghapali Aruna Kornana

(A report on the events and protests that followed the tragic death of the 20 year old Dalit girl in Jind, Haryana, on 24th August, 2013) 

What happened?

The country witnessed another horrific yet beautifully manipulated story of a young woman who was raped and murdered. The mutilated body of a 20 year old student from Baniya Khera, Haryana, was found thrown next to an isolated canal near secluded fields in Jind on August 25th. According to the witnesses there were few clothes on her body, and the injury marks on her body and private parts were clearly visible.

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But even before the medical examination was carried out, the Superintendent of Police, Mr Balwant Singh Rana has been quoted as saying that the girl seemed to have committed suicide. Why would an official make such a vague assumption unless he had a strong intention to hush up this matter at the ground level? And now they are doing their best to prove what he quoted as the truth. The authorities went to the level of saying that the death might have been caused due to mosquito bites.

The family members and witnesses who saw the body at Jind Civil Hospital said, "Her body was lying sprawled on the stretcher and her neck seemed broken. Her arm was twisted inwards at the wrist as if by force. Her feet seemed to have been tied with a strong rope and her salwar was drenched in blood. There were round burn marks around her neck and chest where the skin had turned white as if cigarette or bidi had been stubbed out on it. Blood was also flowing from scratch marks at her chest and legs. Only her face was clean and untouched" (see this Hindu report).

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When the police refused to take cognizance of their complaint the family members and the protesters staged a dharna at the bus stand with the girl's body. Soon a huge police contingent arrived and resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the protesters including women and family members. According to a villager present at the spot: "A policeman kicked the dead body and slapped the father on the head saying go away, you won't get anything here." This alleged action was shown on a local television channel repeatedly before being taken off air.

The first autopsy was carried out in Jind Civil Hospital on Sunday the 25th of August but only after leaving the body on the stretcher unattended for three hours. The report ruled out rape or murder. Dissatisfied with the report the victim's family staged a protest on Monday and demanded her second post-mortem at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS), Rohtak. Unfortunately, the second autopsy too failed to unravel the death mystery. And the authorities kept asserting that she committed suicide.

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Third Autopsy

On August 27th, various human rights activists and organizations like NCSC, NCDHR and All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch pushed for a third post-mortem. The significantly decomposed body was brought to AIIMS around midnight on 27th August and the body remained in the mortuary till next afternoon waiting for the third autopsy. The reason for the delayed autopsy was due to the negligence of the authorities from Haryana. They issued a letter recommending a third autopsy and sent a copy to the Delhi Police and not to the AIIMS authorities.

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Under the pretext that it was not addressed to AIIMS directly, they were not ready to carry out the autopsy. Around 200 protesters from various Dalit organisations from Delhi (NCDHR, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch), DU (HansDo India) and students groups from JNU (United Students Dalit Forum) gathered in front of the mortuary to protest and shouted slogans against the insensitivity of the authorities. Half the day (28th August) went by in communicating with the authorities in Haryana and Delhi Police in getting the letter.

Surprisingly, the authorities initially claimed they can't send the letter on 28th as it was a holiday (Krishnashtami) and then with continuous pressure from the human rights activists they agreed upon sending the letter. Meanwhile, the doctors in AIIMS declared that they would do the autopsy only till 1 pm as it was a half working day (due to Krishnashtami). The protesters kept building the pressure and ultimately AIIMS authorities showed willingness to carry out the autopsy even after 1 pm whenever the letter arrives.

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Then the demonstrators marched from the mortuary towards the main gate around 1:30 pm and they staged a protest in front of AIIMS main gate, but never blocking the path of the vehicles. Still the AIIMS management and the Delhi police were after the protesters demanding and persuading them to stop protesting or shouting slogans and to move outside the hospital premises.

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At around 2:30 pm, a group of protesters decided to meet Kumari Selja, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, at her residence but the Delhi police present at AIIMS opposed this move saying "You can't go to New Delhi, if you do so, I will have to detain you." The group of protesters managed to reach Kumari Selja's residence around 3 pm where they were told that she left her residence just before they arrived. By the time the whole group reached there were more police than protesters. There were around 25 – 28 constables including 9 lady constables and the SP.

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Kumari Selja's PA and the Delhi police, to the protesters' utter shock, stated that she has no time for the protesters as she has prior appointments. The protesters were asked to leave their numbers and were told that she would call them. The demonstrators sat there in front of Selja's residence in peaceful protest. They were told that the message had been conveyed to Kumari Selja and that she will call them the next day. They were asked to leave the spot and protest in Jantar Mantar if they wanted. But they remained until they got to talk to her over the phone. They got to give their demands in writing and the memorandum was accepted by the PA around 4 pm and an appointment was then fixed for 11 am next day to meet Kumari Selja at her office.

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Next day a 5-member committee lead by Vimal Thorat met Kumari Selja where they were assured that an immediate inquiry will be made into the issue and the arrested protesters (in Haryana) will soon be released.

~~~

Sanghapali Aruna Kornana says:

I am Aruna Jyothi Kornana (Sanghapali is my Buddhist name) originally from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. I am a science graduate and have done my MBA (Marketing), MA (Linguistics) from EFLU, M.Phil Linguistics from JNU and am currently pursuing my Ph.D. from JNU. I am also an NLP trainer.

 

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