ALWAR: Nineteen-year-old Manisha (name changed), who was gang-raped by five men off a highway in Rajasthan’s Alwar on April 26, says she was assaulted only because she was a Dalit.
“They asked me and my husband for our names and castes. When they learnt Balai was our surname (indicating a Scheduled Caste), they were elated,” she tells this newspaper.
“They would not have raped me had I belonged to their caste or some other upper caste. They attacked us because they thought they could get away with it (the crime).”
Manisha and her husband were on their way for shopping on a bike to Talvriksha village near Thanagazi when five men on two bikes intercepted them. They dragged the duo to a secluded area, beat them up badly, took turns to rape her and filmed it. Later, they forced the couple to get intimate, too.
All the accused belong to the Gurjar community, a dominant caste in the area. They have since been arrested. The survivor and her husband hail from a traditional weavers’ community, which is among the lowest levels of the social hierarchy in the state.
The case hit national headlines after it emerged that the police delayed lodging an FIR to avoid ‘distraction’ since Alwar was due to go to Lok Sabha polls on May 6. Outrage grew after the assailants leaked a video of the crime online.
“Jaati chhoti hai toh kya hamari izzat nahi? (Don’t we have any honour just because we belong to a low caste?)” asks Manisha who is determined to seek the severest possible punishment for the perpetrators.
“Unko faansi deni chahiye taki Dalit ladkiyon ko koi kamzor na samjhe. (They should be awarded the noose to send the message that Dalit girls must not be considered weak.”
Manisha’s husband, 21, who is undergoing training at the Industrial Training Institute in Jaipur, echoes her.
“We are crushed at several levels. A heinous crime is committed assuming we cannot even raise our voice against it. And people in power who are responsible for protecting us are completely insensitive to our pain and loss,” he says.
He points out how the police first lodged an FIR with only rape charges — on April 30 — and did not invoke the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
He claims he received several phone calls from the accused threatening to release the video on a popular app if he did not pay up. The video was eventually circulated through WatsApp on May 4 and went viral within hours.
“They had the audacity to leak the video despite knowing that an FIR for rape has been lodged against them because they assumed the police would not act,” he adds.
The couple has no complaints over the political slugfest between the BJP and the Congress over their plight. “It is due to the political attention that the police are finally acting swiftly. Who would have listened to us otherwise?” the husband asks.