By Manjari Singh:
“Tell me, is it a norm? Do all rape victims go through this?” asks Kashish (name changed) and then she recalls that infamous Delhi gangrape case where a 23-year-old student was brutally raped. “Yes, I was in Delhi that time, I am uneducated but I saw on TV how everybody came forward in her support, right from the citizens to ministers,” she says. And after a pause she adds, “Everybody was sympathetic towards her.”
Kashish is 34-year-old woman who is a wife, mother of three, a caring daughter-in-law and a gang rape survivor who now is known as ‘the rape victim whom Azam Khan, cabinet minister from Uttar Pradesh, accused of raking publicity’. Kashish was raped on July 30 in a moving car in Kanpur and FIR was lodged the very next day but the cops couldn’t even stop her rapists from harassing her further, leave alone arresting them.
This is why she decided to meet Azam Khan when he had come to Kanpur on November 22 to attend an event, thinking his orders will fasten the probe but little did she know that the visit will further devastated her. “Why would I have gone to a minister if police had listened to me? When my husband learnt that Azam Khan will be in town, he asked me to visit him while he went to the police station,” she says. “As I mentioned about my case he, without wasting a single second said, ‘If you rake up such a shameful matter, how will you have a face to live in the society?'” And with that statement, all her hope to get justice got shattered. The statement by Azam Khan triggered quite a spark among the Twitterati but even that didn’t help getting her rapists arrested.
“He said I am making noise and was simply there for publicity. What was more embarrassing was the crowd that started whistling and clapping,” fumes Kashish. It’s not difficult to guess the circumstances that might have pushed Kashish to seek the minister at the crowded ground. “Police will tell us how the rapists will pay us money that will change our lives if we take the case back and at times I was made to sit with my rapists in the police station,” says Kashish.
I decided to the follow-up story the day the story of Azam Khan lashing the survivor broke into social media but reaching her was not easy. The local reporters I knew were busy chasing Azam Khan and had no interest in talking to Kashish further. When I called Ajai Prakash Shrivastava, SO (station officer), Govindnagar to ask if he could help me reaching Kashish, he said, “Neither the phone number nor the address is mentioned in the file. I can only tell you they live in Begumpurva area of Babupurva. You can ask anyone about them, it’s a small neighbourhood.” When asked why her rapists are still roaming free, the SO said, “I am not sure but I can say she was never available for the statement.”
And this left me wandering at the mucky streets of Begumpurva when I reached Kanpur from Lucknow after two- hour bus journey. Nobody knew the survivor or her husband by their names and the mention of rape left a disgruntled look on the shopkeepers’ faces.
In a hope to get her address, I went to Babupurva police station but that didn’t help either. One constable present there under the condition of anonymity said, “Maybe they just don’t want the media to talk to her.”
I came back to Lucknow without any story but the thought of Kashish never left. Luckily, I managed to get her number from one of the few reporters who had interviewed Kashish the day she met Azam Khan and I spoke to Kashish and her husband on phone only.
Recalling the incident, Kashish says she was raped by four men and she knows three of them by their names. Her husband had taken loan of ten thousand rupees from one Bablu Srivastava who is a property dealer, a man in his forties and he had been harassing the couple for quite some time for the repayment. “My husband does whitewashing and doesn’t make much money. We live hand to mouth but we had already paid three thousand rupees, but then he wanted the full amount in a short span of time,” she says.
Just a day before the incident Kashish had gone out to the market and saw Bablu Srivastava who was already waiting for her. He started following her and also made lewd comments. “My wife tried to ignore at first when she realised he had crossed limits, she took out her slippers and beat him,” says Kashish’s husband. “Before the crowd could gather, Bablu sped away in his bike saying, ‘Ab dekh tere saath mein kya karta hoon (You see what I will do to you now).’ I got scared when my wife told me about the incident but then I had never thought he would rape my wife.”
Next day the couple went to the same market to buy some vegetables. “It was around 10:30 pm, I know it was late but then vegetables get cheaper by that time,” says Kashish almost choking. Bablu was already waiting for them with his son Mohit, a man called Raja Ram Gupta and one more man the couple has no clue about. They asked the couple to come near this deserted area near the temple located at Babupurwa itself. “They started the conversation with profanities and I knew we were in trouble,” says Kahish. Bablu hit her husband with a beer bottle and then he dragged and shoved the bleeding man inside the Maruti van. “Then came Mohit and he dragged me too and it was he who raped me first and then came the rest while my husband was bleeding and crying in pain sitting a few inches away from me in the car,” says Kashish.
The couple doesn’t remember what time it was when they gained consciousness at Babarganj area of Kanpur. “We were still lying with our torn clothes on when onlookers called the police and when they came they very conveniently said ‘yeh toh hamare yaha ka case hi nahi hai (this case is not from our area)’.” But when people protested they registered the case at Govindnagar Thana and the couple was sent to the hospital.
After the check up and tests, they were discharged the next morning. “I was still in pain and finding it difficult to walk and my husband was not well either. I had this woman constable by my side but when I asked her to drop me home, she said, ‘I am getting late; my husband is waiting for me at home’.” The couple somehow managed to reach their home, and then began the real ordeal.
“We went to the police station the same day but to our surprise no arrest was made and we were asked to leave and some again only when called,” says Kashish’s husband.
In four months the couple was called only to tell them how they should take the case back. “Sometimes they would call me only to tell me that they have lost the file where they registered my case,” he adds.
The rapists kept threatening the couple time to time of dire consequences if case not taken back and it was then Kashish decided to meet Azam Khan and the rest as they say is history.
These four months have left Kashish devastated. “We are poor uneducated people, where do we go now. I have almost given up but then how can I ever forget that I was raped and Azam Khan’s remark,” she sobs.
Born and brought up in Delhi, Kashish shifted to Kanpur two years ago to take care of her bed ridden mother-in law. “We were saving every penny to pay the debt but then look what happened. Madam, tell me should I give up now, It has torn our world apart. My children can’t focus on their studies, we can’t sleep peacefully and my mother health has deteriorated further,” says her husband adding how disgusting he thinks Khan’s statements are.
To cover up what he said, Khan next day said he said what he said to protect Kashish’s dignity. And as for Kashish, she was consoling her child who was crying for milk as she answered the phone. “It’s painful to talk about it again and again Didi, those policemen would only understand my pain when their mothers and sisters will go through what I am going through right now,” she hangs up.
That was not the first time Azam Khan made a ‘senseless’ remark on rape. Earlier, he said mobile phones are the reason behind child rapes. Whatever might be the reason, the latest NCRB reports make it quite evident that the current government is not doing enough to make Uttar Pradesh safe for women. With a figure of 38467 in 2014 against 32546 in 2013, there has been a jump of 18 percent in cases of crime against women and with this the state has broken all previous records of rise in such crimes.
Update: It has been almost one month since Kashish met with Azam Khan, and yet, no action has been taken so far.