Sacha Khera: Taking a tough stance on the rising number of rapes in the country, especially after a spate of incidents were reported in Haryana, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday sent out a sharp message to Khap panchayats saying they cannot supersede the judiciary. Sonia also said that strictest action will be taken against the culprits in the rape cases. She said those guilty of such heinous crimes, which take place not only in Haryana but elsewhere too, must be "severely punished".
Visiting the rape victims in Jind, Haryana, Sonia slammed khap panchayats saying India was a democracy and the law of the land was in the hands of the judiciary and "no one else". The Congress President admitted that rapes were on the rise in the country.
"It is not just restricted to Haryana alone. It is happening everywhere across the country. Strict action will be taken against the culprits," she said. Sonia is the first national level leader to meet the rape victims of Haryana.
After meeting Sonia Gandhi, the rape victim's mother said, "I told Soniaji that the criminals should be hanged. Sonia hugged me and said that she was my daughter too and that she will get us justice. I didn't ask her for anything else."
Sonia was accompanied by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Union Minister Kumari Selja, Haryana Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala and Congress MP from Sirsa, Ashok Tanwar. After Sonia's return, Hooda and Surjewala stayed back to meet the victim's family. Senior police officials of the State were also present.
The Haryana Government has drawn flak from all quarters, particularly the opposition, for its alleged failure to prevent incidents of crime against women. Asked about the Haryana government's "failure" in controlling such crimes that also involved many Dalit victims, Sonia said, "I have said what I had to say that such barbaric acts are condemnable". Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda hadn't met a single victim before Sonia's visit.
Two more rapes reported ahead of Sonia's visit
Two more rapes have been reported in Haryana. While a minor was raped in Panipat, in Ambala, a widow was allegedly raped. The police have registered a case, however, no arrests have been made so far. This takes the tally of reported rapes in Haryana over the past one month to 13.
The reports also come on a day when Congress President Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to visit the rape victims in Jind and their families. Her visit comes three days after a Dalit teen girl set herself on fire after being gangraped by four men. The Congress government in Haryana had been criticised for doing too little too late. Although the Hooda government has set up a three-member panel to look into the rising number of rapes in the state, much still needs to be done.
Meanwhile, the Superintendent of Police, Hisar, has said that rapes will be dealt by fast track courts and strictest punishment awarded to the accused. Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief on India @ 9, the police officer said, "Rape is a very serious crime. One gangrape took place in Hisar and we arrested all the accused and we have planned to put this case in the fast track court and we will ensure that the culprits are punished."
Haryana's state of shame
The Jind gangrape
A teenaged Dalit girl in Jind died after she set herself on fire on the night of October 7 after she was allegedly gangraped. The four accused have been arrested.
She was rushed to the civil hospital in Jind district, and was later referred to PGIMS at Rohtak in serious condition. The girl breathed her last on Saturday evening in the Rohtak hospital. Reports said that the 16-year-old girl was forcibly taken to the house of one of the suspects where the crime occurred.
Earlier on Saturday, the victim in her statement to the police said that one of her neighbours Pradeep allegedly dragged her into his house while the sister-in-law of the accused kept guard standing on the terrace of the house so that nobody could come inside. Pradeep and another youth Naveen raped the teenager.
The Bhiwani rape
A minor girl was reportedly raped in Bhiwani, Haryana around the beginning of this month. The Director General of Police cancelled the leaves of all police personnel for the month of October after the incident was reported.
Sources said that a special drive was also initiated to identify lumpen elements, unemployed youth, vagabonds and criminals in each village of the state and prepare reports and lists and take action against them.
The Sonepat gangrape
A class 11 student was gangraped in Gohana near Sonepat in Haryana by four men on September 27. Three accused were arrested and a case was registered. According to police, the girl was raped in a busy market area on Thursday afternoon but her family filed the complaint only on Friday.
The Jind gangrape
In the same week, a woman in Jind was raped by three men. The accused barged into the woman's house looking for her husband and when they did not find him, they brutally raped her. The victim was from a backward caste. Her daughter stood outside the house screaming in fright. The victim said that the men made a video of the whole gruesome act and threatened to make it public if she reported the matter to the police.
The Hisar gangrape
A 16-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly gangraped by eight upper caste men on September 9 in the Dabra area of Hisar. The case came to light only 10 days later, on September 19, after the distraught minor broke down in front of her parents and narrated the incident.
To make matters worse, when the girl's father approached the police for help, they reportedly refused to file an FIR. The helpless father committed suicide the next day. The police arrested one of the accused after the residents of the area refused to cremate the body of the victim's father until arrests were made.
The accused reportedly made an MMS clip of the incident and circulated it. The girl's uncle told reporters, "The girl was scared and did not report the incident to her family. The accused had threatened to kill her if she approached the police. But when the MMS clip was circulated in the entire village and the people came to know, her father decided to report the matter to the police. However, I don't know what happened. He took the extreme step the next day."
(With additional information from PTI)