The Uttar Pradesh elections are almost around the corner and amidst all the buzz around the rift within the first family of the state, whose daughter-in- law’s doing what, and the usual concerns of roads, power, employment, something remains unaddressed. But not unseen.Violence against women – a gargantuan issue in the patriarchal badlands of U.P. – is as rampant as ever, and yet it’s never brought to the fore as a possible issue that can swing the vote. It’s not even talked about as anything out of the ordinary. A normalised way of life now, violence, especially against women, is just assumed as the go-to option in Bundelkhand. Like we heard a man alleged to have burnt his wife alive say to us not so long ago, “We never had any problems. If she would step out of line, I would give her a slap or two sometimes, that’s all.”
And that’s the story, in two words, really – Yet another rape in Bundelkhand, you say? ‘That’s all.’ Khabar Lahariya reports on 2 rape cases in Mahoba, just a week apart. One of an 80-year- old woman who was so shocked she had tears running down her face that she didn’t bother wiping as she related the episode and the other of a minor girl who was mercilessly killed after being kidnapped and raped brutally.
Cases of atrocities on women are only increasing in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh. Recently, we heard in the Kabrai police station in Mahoba of a rape case, of an 80-year-old woman. It is suspected that the elderly woman was raped by Satyadev who belonged to this village. According to the elderly woman, on the night of December 14, she had gone to check on her fields when Satyadev raped her. At present, the accused has been arrested and put in the Kabrai police station for further investigation.
The woman said, “He kept trying to close my eyes and had my mouth pressed shut tight while I was trying to scream with all my might. I could not believe what he was doing.” In an unbelievable display of presence of mind, she even gave him a chase. “I followed him when he ran away and that’s when I noticed he was Satyadev.”
It’s only because she had the nerve to do this that the accused is now behind bars. Not that there’s much reason to peg hopes on. Suresh, the woman’s grandson, said, “We are poor and he is rich, and that’s our weakness. At the most, they will put him in jail for one day and then release him.”
This is not the first case of this kind in Mahoba, where violence and what the locals term ‘misbehaviour’, directed towards women is not uncommon, to say the least. The accused is also, in most cases, a man from the same neighbourhood or village as the survivor. This complicates matters for the woman, her family, and the unseen but ubiquitous ‘samaaj’ at large. This fact, coupled with a general lack of awareness around the IPC sections that the complaints should be lodged under in the first place, magnifies the problem even further.
Earlier in December, a woman from block Charkhari in Mahoba itself, accused a man named Malkhan of raping her. It’s a familiar story of stalking that leads to terrifying consequences only too often. “He tried to stop me many times along the way and when I did not react, he misbehaved with me,” she told us. To which the neighbourhood watchman who only keeps watch at night, added, “Malkhan has done this crime twice before, once to a girl and to a fifty-year- old woman. Actually, his mental health is unstable and that is why he has been doing this, but these incidents have increased and are proving to be very dangerous for women in the village.”
When we spoke with Gaurav Singh, the Superintendent of Police at Mahoba, he insisted on the official line, “We are constantly focusing on this, it is a serious issue. The accused do get arrested when we can. And further action is taken as well.” (Yes, the ‘when we can’, is most indicative there. Like a spoof on Obama, or something).
On the night of January 3, Raja Maharaj, Sunil Maharaj and Pintu Kori arrived at Devraj’s house on a three-wheeler. It was somewhere close to 10 pm when they entered and kidnapped his 15-year-old daughter. Devraj was at work at that time and the three men beat up his wife before taking off with their daughter. They then raped the girl brutally and threw her down the Ramkunda hill. When Devraj returned home and learnt of what had happened from his wife, he went out looking for his daughter. “My wife told me about the men taking her and so I went out in search for her.” But, it was too late, “When I found her she was already dead.” She was found in a quarry, fatally assaulted; Devraj recounts the horror, “I had to shine a light on her face to recognise her, she was so mangled.”
The accused are all noted goons from the area and around. The head of the Kabrai police station, Amit Bhadana spoke about the report, “An FIR has been written under section 201, 352, 302, 2/17, 376 (d) and the POCSO Act against the three men. Pintu has been caught while the other two are still absconding. Three teams have been assigned to catch them and hopefully, they will be caught soon.” But there remains little hope of the infamous Maharaj brothers falling under the ‘we arrest them when we can’ radar. Meanwhile, women continue to work the fields, and girls go to school when they’re allowed to. Life in Mahoba goes on.