Dwarapur, a small hamlet near the Sariska Tiger sanctuary in Alwar, Rajasthan comes across as yet another obscure, sleepy village in the area unless you spot something very unusual: a tent housing four cops outside a quiet house.
That calm, however, is, unnerving. None of the 30-odd members of this house are at peace. A 19-year-old “beenni” (daughter-in-law) of the family was gang-raped by five men on April 26, just about 10 km from this village, in front of her husband.
The incident would have remained yet another crime against Dalits belonging to Balai caste—traditional weavers who are at a low pedestal in the social hierarchy—had it not caught the attention of the national media over the shocking apathy shown by cops in the case.
The woman, who splits time between her in-laws' house in Dwarapur and her parents’ home in a neighbouring village Lalwadi, was on the way to shop for a family wedding with her husband, visiting from Jaipur when five men blocked their bike.
“They were on two bikes and stopped us. They asked for our names and caste and hearing that we are Dalits they took us aside,” the FIR that was lodged four days later and undersigned by the survivor reads.
“They dragged me by the neck and started beating me and my husband with sticks. After that they asked both of us to get intimate. When we refused they tore off our clothes. Then one by one each of them raped me, while my husband was constantly being beaten and tortured. One of them raped me twice,” it adds.
“One of them was also shooting the entire act on mobile phone. Later they forced us to copulate too and it was also filmed,” the survivor further said in the FIR. “Before leaving they took our phone numbers and threatened to kill us if we told anyone.”
The shaken couple gathered their courage and clothes before pulling their bike from a ditch and moving back. But not long after, the man started receiving calls from the perpetrators asking for money failing which they threatened to circulate the video via WhatsApp.
“They started calling from different numbers and each time they would threaten to kill us and ask for money,” says the survivor’s husband.
The couple, however, kept the matter to themselves and only on April 29 when there was a flood of blackmail calls—did they gather the courage to tell their family about the horrific incident.
A rape case was subsequently lodged at Thanagazi police station after the man, accompanied by elders in the family, met the Alwar Superintendent of Police and SHO of the Thanagazi police station under whose jurisdiction the crime occurred.
“We told them that the crime was committed by five Gurjar men but there was no urgency shown by them in trying to arrest the men. They did not even invoke the sections of the SC/ ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,” the man, 21, alleges.
In the meantime, calls blackmailing and threatening the couple continued and on the morning of May 4, a video of the crime was circulated on WhatsApp.
“The goons kept saying that the police would do nothing and that is exactly what was happening.”
“My cousin received it (the video) on his phone and we ran to the police where we were told that everyone was busy due to Parliamentary election till May 6 and hence we should come after few days. It was only after we approached the BJP MLA of the area that the matter took a political turn,” the survivor’s father-in-law said.
Fault lines in the village
Dwarapur village has about 400 houses—the maximum, about 150, belonging to Gurjars, a dominant caste in the area. The village also has about 80 Dalit families belonging to Meena and Balai castes and often fights break out over the lower castes being denied entry to the biggest temple in the village and access to a large borewell when they go to fetch water.
Six men—a man, Mukesh Gurjar was not part of the gang that raped the woman but was arrested for circulating the video online—are all from different villages but from the same caste- Gurjar.
Survivor’s husband who is training at the Industrial Training Institute in Jaipur said that before the case snowballed into a political issue—he was approached by Gurjars in the village to “settle the matter”.
“Many have come to show their solidarity—even Brahmins but none of the Gurjars came. However, a powerful man from their community called one day asking us to compromise and withdraw the case which we refused.”
“Izzat toh gayi, ab jee-jaan ke saath nyay ke liye ladenge (Our honour is gone but we will fight for justice with all our beings),” said survivor’s mother-in-law. The survivor herself wants nothing but death penalty for her tormentors. “We keep hearing that these Gurjars goons have done heinous things to other Dalit girls, which were never reported. Now we won’t settle for anything less than the severest punishment under the law,” said the 19-year-old.
Meanwhile, the cops outside who have been assigned 24x7 to protect the family are on a constant watch.
“Abhi tak toh sab shanti hai lekin caste equation ko dekhte hue, kabhi bhi kuch ho sakta hai (So far, so good but there is always a chance of an untoward incident due to caste equations,” one of them says.