Bribed & Warned – Muzaffarnagar Rape Survivors’ Fight Not on Sale
Cameraperson: Aishwarya S Iyer
Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Aafreen* was alone with her younger son when communal violence spread to her village during the Muzaffarnagar riots in September 2013. On her feet, with her four-month-old son in her arms, she made her way to the fields behind the village. Tired, she took a few moments to recoup. This is when three men belonging to her own village grabbed her.
They took turns to rape her and threatened to kill her son if she screamed, adding that if she told her husband, he won’t accept her and she would be insulted.
Particularly horrific during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots was the age-old use of a woman's body to redeem the honour of men. Of all the rape allegations, just seven materialised into official complaints. Of the seven, all complainants were Muslims and all accused Hindus. Today, of those seven complaints, only Aafreen’s case is in court. But even she says the case seems to be headed nowhere. “Right now the case is in Muzaffarnagar. As of now no investigation has happened. After the one time I gave my statement under Section 164 of the CrPC (statement to the judicial magistrate), no one has reached out to me.
However, Aafreen is not one to give up. The only other rape survivor who says she is struggling with her case at court is Shama*. She says she withdrew her statement under pressure and now wants to re-open her case.
Shama says all those who supported her when they encouraged her to re-open her case have deserted her today. Even her lawyer, she says, isn’t listening to her. “Some man went to my lawyer and incited her against me. She should have listened to us as I am the complainant, right? He peddled lies and incited my lawyer against me.”
She lives in a resettlement colony today and looks back at a simpler life in the past – a life that is lost now.
Five years since the riots, and not one of the accused from the seven rape and gang rape cases has been convicted. As one's case languishes in court and the other says she struggles to re-open it, justice evades these women who are fighting what was done to them during the worst communal violence north India has seen in decades.
(* Names changed)