By Saurabh Sharma for Youth Ki Awaaz:
In a gruesome incident, Vimala, a gang-rape and acid-attack survivor, was forcibly fed acid by two unidentified criminals in a running train on March 23 in Lucknow.
The Lucknow Police, too busy tracking Romeos in parks and around historical monuments, appears to be in no hurry to nab the perpetrators even as the victim continues to remain unconscious in hospital for the second consecutive day.
The 35-year-old Dalit woman was on her way back to Lucknow from Rae Bareilly after meeting relatives by the Ganga-Gomti Express when the attack took place.
Witnesses say two men boarded the train from Mohanlalganj in Lucknow. They set upon Vimala the minute they were inside the coach.
After thrashing her, the two attackers forced acid down her throat. Vimala fell unconscious immediately. The two men then fled the coach without anyone in the coach making even a half-hearted attempt to stop them.
The motive appeared to be to silence, preferably kill her. The attackers knew which train and coach she would be in beforehand. It is likely that they were trailing her for days.
Vimala was rushed to King George Medical Hospital by the Government Railway Police (GRP). Her condition is said to be critical. A Dr Ved Prakash says she’s unable to talk or move.
Policemen posted at the hospital refuse to talk. Meanwhile, On Friday (March 24), at noon, Chief Minister of Yogi Adityanath paid a visit to the victim at the hospital and assured her investigate the matter quickly.
He expressed disappointment with the police force for their alacrity in the investigation of her case filed earlier, he ordered them to submit a fresh report and handed over a cheque of one lakh for Vimala’s treatment.
Earlier this month, Youth Ki Awaaz had highlighted how Vimala was continuing to fight for justice while also highlighting the perceived threat that she faced.
In 2008, one Bhondu Singh had allegedly raped her and a couple of years later, he along with his brother Guddu allegedly stabbed her in the stomach. In 2011, acid was thrown on her thrice. It was only after media reported her plight that Guddu was arrested. Upon his release in June 2012, he and Bhondu raped her and shoved an iron rod in her private parts.
Since then, she has received multiple threats to drop the case.
“If they did not spare me, why will they spare my young daughter? The police never ever tried to provide protection to my family while people who raped me regularly threaten my husband and even call after snatching his mobile phone,” Vimala had told Youth Ki Awaaz.
“Every day I wake up with fear. I cannot sleep and work properly as my mind is occupied with the past thoughts. But still I try to give my best at this café,” she had said.
Not long ago, Vimala was desperate to talk to senior superintendent of police (SSP) Lucknow, Manzil Saini, to tell her of the threats she was receiving from the same men who had repeatedly attacked her.
In fact, Vimala had said on different occasions that SSP Saini had never even made a pretence of helping her, much less give her protection though she had once promised to provide her security.
Very recently, when 101reporters tried to know more about the progress made in Vimala’s case, the SSP attempted to insinuate that if Vimala was in trouble, it was her own fault.
“This woman has lodged a number of cases. We think she has herself to blame for the troubles, the fault must lie with her. In any case, I’ll ask the officer concerned to look into the matter,” said Saini.
Vimala had also registered a case of receiving a death threat at the Gomti Nagar Police Station on January 19 this year. Circle Officer Satyasen Singh had avoided talking about the case by promising to call back with details.
This time, too, the police are not showing any urgency to apprehend Vimala’s attackers. SSP Manzil Saini did not answer calls. Even the case against unidentified criminals was registered only after I tweeted the attack several times, and after the matter was brought to the notice of the official handle of the UP Police.
Ashish Shukla, a member of the Chaanv Foundation, told 101reporters.com that journalists come looking for stories but do nothing to help hapless women like Vimala.
“No one is interested in getting justice for Vimala. Her attackers are emboldened because of such an attitude,” said Shukla. “It’s a sad day for Sheroes Hangout Café (where Vimala works). Our girls are not safe and every single member of our cafe is scared.”
According to recent updates, the Railway Police claims to have arrested the two accused Bhondu and Guddu, along with their father Tribhuvan Singh. Now, it’s left to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to render justice to Vimala.
About the author: Saurabh Sharma is a Lucknow based independent journalist and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.