Thursday, September 19, 2013

A spine chilling and eye-wetting Rape story[MUST READ]

This is the story of Zahira, who was 13 years old when an unfortunate spine chilling rape incident happened to her. 
(She was visited by Team Tehelka, a leading news daily in INDIA.)

Wearing a green salwar-kurta, with her hair braided neatly, Zahira comes to meet team tehelka(a leading daily in INDIA) at a busy road in front of Lucknow Assembly. Carrying a bundle of books wrapped in an old plastic bag, she smiles enthusiastically on seeing the team In her smile, there is no hint of the horrific incident which took place one evening eight years ago when four men kidnapped her from an isolated road of a posh colony. Nobody could have imagined that the girl being dragged into the car would later be counted amongst one of the country’s most appalling gangrapes. Zahira was only 13-years-old when she was subjected to burns using cigarettes and wounded badly with the barrel of a gun.

Looking at Zahira now, on the face of it, one sees a strong person who is hoping to get justice. But the country’s legal system is testing her patience.

Zahira’s poor family had migrated from Assam decades ago. Except for Zahira, who speaks in a pure UP dialect, many of her family members cannot even speak Hindi fluently. It takes us 30 minutes to reach Zahira’s house. All this while, she is quiet. Then as if staring into nothingness, she says, “I want to study further and be a judge. Then I’ll pass the judgements quickly in cases of other such girls. I often think that it’s been so many years, why haven’t I received justice yet?” She wipes the tears that silently flow from the corners of her eyes and goes silent.

Unlike other victims, she doesn’t shout and cry narrating her tale. After the gangrape, the subsequent struggles with the police, judiciary and society, in addition to an economic and mental breakdown left the girl numb. But she still stands firm in her struggle for justice against the six politically connected men who barbarically raped her when she was 13.

The team is in the drawing room of her house along with her parents. Three policemen are relaxing in a tent outside the front door. Zahira’s father is a scrap dealer. To help the family out, Zahira also worked as a maid in some houses in Aashiana colony. On 2 May 2005, she was returning home from work in the evening along with her five-year old brother. As they reached the main road of the colony, four men came in a Santro car and dragged her inside.

Zahira recalls, “Before I could make sense of anything, they rolled the windows up and sped off. Initially there were just four men. Then at Nishatganj, two more joined in. The six of them tore my clothes. They were abusing me loudly and laughing. Then they started watching obscene videos on their mobiles. They made me watch it too, hit me and burnt me with cigarettes. They threw me on the floor beneath the back seat. They were all yelling loudly and took turns to scratch and pinch me. The more I begged and cried, the harder they slapped, punched and kicked me. They pulled at my hair and started plucking my nails. Then beating me, they raped me. They even had a gun and Gaurav Shukla and his friends hit me with the gun’s barrel. Then they inserted it inside my urinary tract and burned the area with cigarettes. I was bleeding profusely and was almost unconscious. Then I remember the car reached a farm house. They pulled me out and dragged me in that naked state to a room. They threw me on the bed and all of them were on me. They were gnawing and chewing every part of my body; beating, abusing, burning me. Then I heard Gaurav Shukla talk to someone on phone. He was saying, ‘If you’ve brought the girl, then kill her after the work is done.’ I knew they were going to kill me too. But they left me to die on the roadside.”

In the Aashiana gangrape case, six men were arrested, including Gaurav Shukla, Faizan, Asif Siddiqui, Bhartendu Misra, Saurabh Jain and Aman Bakshi. The lower court sentenced Faizan to life imprisonment while Bhartendu Misra and Aman Bakshi were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Since Asif Siddiqui and Saurabh Jain were below 18 years of age, the court declared them as juveniles. But soon after this, both of them died in separate road accidents. Faizan, Bhartendu and Aman are in jail and have appealed against the judgement in the high court. But the main accused in the case, Gaurav Shukla, is free even today. Gaurav is a relative of SP leader Arun Shankar Shukla who is going to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Unnao. A close associate of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Arun Shankar has a criminal background.

Madhu Garg, the UP head of Rashtriya Janvadi Mahila Sangathan, has been standing with Zahira and her family in their fight for justice for the past eight years. She says, “It is plainly a poor girl’s struggle against the political mafia of UP. With money and power, they have been dragging the case for the past eight years. Initially, they made every effort to prove the main accused Gaurav to be a juvenile. His school records were changed, a fake certificate of ChayaPublic School was prepared and they even attempted to seize his birth certificate from Lucknow Municipal Corporation. Then his lawyers proved him a juvenile in a forged case, and tried to use the same judgement in this case.”

She continues, “They have been pressurising Zahira’s family for so long; sometimes with money, sometimes with threats. Every time the lower court passes a judgement, they approach the higher courts to challenge it. For the past eight years, the case has become centred on proving Gaurav a juvenile. His lawyer is known to drag cases for decades. He openly asks Zahira’s father in the court, ‘how long will you fight?’ Zahira has been summoned 26 times to face direct interrogation. She has been interrogated only five times. The courage of Zahira and her father must be saluted as they have faced the torment for eight years and are still standing strong. If it is taking us so long to get justice even with all the pressure that media and our civil society has put, one can imagine what the plight of hundreds of other victims must be, who cannot even come out in the open to speak of the violence done to them.”

When asked about the punishment her perpetrators received, Zahira doesn’t respond. In his broken Hindi, her father replies, “You see, a woman has two separate holes for urine and menstruation to pass – the urinary tract and the vagina. When a barrel of a gun is inserted in your 13-year-old daughter in such a way that both the holes become one, and then the wound is burnt with cigarettes, what punishment would you demand for this? If your daughter returns home one night, her body burnt with cigarettes, slashed with blades, her nails plucked, and soaked in blood, what punishment would you ask for? No justice can ever reduce the pain. We die every day while Gaurav Shukla is free and married. No matter what they do, fill my house with treasures or shoot me, I won’t back off. Even if I have to sell everything for it, I’ll do it, but I’ll fight till the end.”
Salute to her!!..and shame that we are living in such a society.
--The story has been shared from Tehelka daily for purpose of awakening the society only, no other purpose has been served. Full credit goes to Team tehelka for visting Zahira and share her pain. Thank you.

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