Guj Police Didn’t File Rape FIR as We’re Dalits: Modasa Girl’s Kin
Trigger Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing
Five days into 2020, hundreds of Dalits flocked to a village near Gujarat’s Modasa Town. A 19-year-old Dalit girl had been found hanging from a tree. She was allegedly kidnapped, gangraped and murdered. The girl’s family alleged that the police refused to file an FIR because of caste prejudices.
Three weeks have passed and although there is still no clarity about what led to the death of the girl, the investigation has been transferred to CID. A police inspector has also been suspended for negligence of duty. Three of the four accused are in police custody, the fourth, is on the run.
What Happened on 5 January?
The girl, who had been missing since 1 January, was found dead with her clothes torn and bruises covering her body. Her family alleged that she was gangraped and murdered. The victim’s sister identified four accused – Bimal Bharvad, Darshan Bharvad, Jigar and Satish Bharvad – all belonging to a dominant caste in the area.
The sister, a key witness to the investigation, claimed she saw the four men abducting the girl from Modasa city on 1 January and forcefully taking her away in their car.
Police refused to file an FIR for rape and murder, and insisted on issuing a statement for “accidental death.”
“We were just following procedure. Any FIR is filed only after the post-mortem is done. How do we know if it was suicide or murder?”, Mayur Patil, Aravalli SP said.
But, by the evening, Dalits gathered in large numbers in the village and the family refused to bring down the girl’s body till the police accepted their demands. The police, finally, filed a FIR adding gangrape and murder charges.
The body, that was starting to decay, was taken to the nearby hospital from where the doctors referred the case to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.
‘Gujarat Police Did Not Register Missing Complaint, FIR Because of Caste Bias’
After the girl went missing on 1 January, the family waited for her to return for two days and then went to the Modasa town police station with CCTV footage retrieved from the area where the 19-year-old was last seen.
“On 4 January, we, again, went to the Town police station, Inspector NK Rabari said, ‘your girl has married someone from your caste, and if we call for you, then you will be not in state to show your face to anyone,’” the victim’s grandfather, who is also the main complainant in the case, told The Quint.
The victim’s grandfather added that the inspector had told him that the case did not come under the purview of his police station.
“Then, around 7:30 pm on 4 January, the inspector said this does not come under the purview of my police station. I was told to go and lodge a complaint in the Rural police station,” the victim’s grandfather added.
The victim’s lawyer and Dalit rights activist Keval Singh Rathod says, “Besides the accused persons, the attitude of the police and the administration also shows caste bias. Police officers did not register a missing complaint and a FIR because of their caste bias.”
Discrepancies in Post-Mortem Report
Keval Singh Rathod alleged that one of the doctors in the panel conducting the post mortem, told him, “Her private parts have marks of injury and her blood has samples of semen.”
However, the first report does not confirm or deny whether she was raped but mentions, that “part of rectum is prolapsed out from anal canal.”
The forensic report is still awaited.
‘Why Does My Husband Need to Rape Any Other Woman?’: Wife of Accused
The car, which was allegedly used to kidnap the girl, belonged to Bimal Bharwad. It is still not clear how the victim and the accused knew each other.
Bimal’s family claimed he was friends with the victim’s sister. The girl’s family, however, denied having any direct connection with the accused.
Bimal and his three cousins, who are also accused in the case, belonged to the Rabari caste. Although Rabaris are largely categorised as Other Backward Class (OBCs) in Gujarat, Bimal’s family, which resides in the neighbouring village, owns considerable land and enjoys political clout.
When The Quint visited Bimal’s house, his brother Vipul said, “This is a conspiracy by the Dalits and the other members of our community who have joined hands against us. They are implicating my college-going brother because they are jealous of our wealth and business.”
Bimal is a student of engineering in a college in Modasa city. But, his brother says, he mostly helps in the family’s business of buying and selling land. He got married in 2017 and his wife told The Quint that Bimal could not have committed the crime as he had been with her ever since the girl had gone missing.
Deep-Rooted Caste Bias Among Cops in Gujarat
A ground visit reveals the deep-rooted caste bias among police officers in Gujarat. Despite crimes against Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes increasing each year, police officials are often reluctant to file FIRs or add relevant sections.
A Lokniti-CSDS study shows that at least 27% of police personnel in Gujarat believe that complaints under the SC/ST act are "very much" false.
Dalit rights activist and founder of NGO Navsarjan Trust, Martin Macwan, said, “There is a tremendous prejudice against Dalits in not only among the police or the politicians but also among the judiciary.”
In Gujarat we had filed a RTI application with the government of Gujarat asking for the false cases in numbers by police stations between 1989 and 2018, a 30-year-period. Interestingly, 6 police district chiefs said in their districts there is not a single complaint which is false. In 7 districts, the police chief has given us in writing that they do not have a system of collecting such data.Martin Macwan, Dalit rights activist
The Lokniti-CSDS study points out that one-fourth of police personnel in Gujarat have never received any training on caste sensitisation.