New Delhi/Rajkot: On July 6, a young woman in Rajkot protested dowry harassment by walking semi-nude on the city streets.
Twenty-two-year-old Pooja Chauhan hit headlines after she took to the shocking form of protest alleging torture by her in-laws and husband, embarrassing the police into filing a dowry harassment case under the Domestic Violence Act.
But now there’s a fresh twist to the case.
The National Commission for Women says it wasn’t dowry harassment, but sexual exploitation that forced Pooja into walking the streets in her undergarments.
"She was misused by various people. There must've been a trafficking chain. These are people exploiting young girls in their vulnerable situation. We have one or two names given to us by Pooja. We've given it to the police commissioner,” says NCW member, Malini Bhattacharya.
NCW found Pooja was a victim of child trafficking and despite her love marriage with her husband Pratap, she was again pressured into taking to flesh trade.
“I was sick of my mother-in-law and husband. I am so sick, I don't care even if I die now,” says Pooja.
Meanwhile, the city police is probing the domestic violence case registered against Pooja's in-laws.
Rajkot police commissioner Nityanandan told CNN-IBN that though police have no information about trafficking and prostitution angle, they will wait for the NCW report to decide on further course of action.
Law catches up with in-laws
Pooja’s husband Pratap, mother-in-law Hansa and two neighbours were arrested on harassment charges immediately after the news report and are currently out on bail.
They were summoned by a Rajkot court on July 8 and were asked to respond to Pooja's plea for the demand of alimony and social, mental and physical protection.
Pooja - who went underground after making news - is currently staying with her parents in Rajkot.
The court also ordered police to provide protection to Pooja and also said she should be allowed to continue staying in her rented accommodation.
The court's order directed her landlord in Shastrinagar, where Pooja stayed for the past year with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, not to ask her to vacate the house.
Meanwhile, NCW says its top priority is to rehabilitate Pooja and her daughter.
(With inputs from Rohini Mohan, Deborah Gray and Meghdoot Sharon)
PM Modi among 30 most influential people on internet: Time magazine
Citizenship and Cultural Richness: A joint initiative by St Stephen's College and Network 18 towards educational inclusivity
US support India's efforts to address gender-based violence