Delhi - Nearly two months after a 14-year-old girl was killed in Uttar Pradesh's Badohi district, her family escaped their village in search of justice.
The family alleges that the 14-year-old was gangraped by villagers connected to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The police has arrested four people in the case, but the FIR has no mention of rape.
"We escaped to Delhi very quietly," the family told BOOM.
They said the police tracked them, threatened to file charges against them if they spoke to the media, and prevented them from leaving the village, till they escaped.
For nearly a week, the family has gone from one protest site to another in search of fair investigation, media attention, and justice. And now, without much help and no money, they are returning to their village.
On 21 July, the day of the incident, Ayushi* (name changed to protect identity) was allegedly raped by a bunch of men from the village.
At around 12 pm, she went to her friend's birthday party. At the gathering, a few men from the neighborhood were also present. One of them, Vicky, who was also there, has been named in the FIR.
Vicky is the main accused mentioned in the FIR. According to the police, he was caught the very next day the FIR was filed.
The neighbours say the Vicky was often seen eve teasing young girls of the village.
Ayushi, who used to live with her grandparents while her parents worked in Surat, was alone at home that night. Her grandparents were out on a religious trip.
That night, Vicky along with a few of his friends barged into Ayushi's house and took her away from there. She begged, cried, and pleaded for help but the scared neighbors did not come to her rescue.
The 14-year-old was found hanging from a tree 2 kilometres away from her village.
Last week, two minor Dalit sisters were found hanging from a tree in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri. Six people have reportedly been arrested on charges of rape and murder on the complaint of the girls' mother.
Sanjay Kumar Pindh, the father of the victim blames himself for his daughter's death. "I wish I had not left her here in the village," he told BOOM. "But we didn't have much of a choice because she was completing her studies and it would have been difficult to afford a new school in Gujarat," he said.
The police registered an FIR when the family reached the police station on 22 July 2022 in the afternoon and arrested four people in connection with this case; one is still on the run. The accused were charged under sections 354, 302, and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
While talking to BOOM, Inspector Sadanand Singh, the Investigating officer pointed out that the investigation is on and more charges will be pressed against the accused.
The 14-year-old's uncle told BOOM that the villagers didn't do anything to help despite the cries because they were scared of the "powerful goondas" of the village.
"No one would have put their lives at risk," he said.
By powerful people, the villagers clarified that those accused had links with politicians but they failed to describe how and with whom these accused had links.
For two months after the incident, the family alleged that they were almost put under "house arrest" and were constantly "watched".
"We went to the temple to pray for Ayushi's departed soul. We were just sitting there when the police arrived and started to enquire if we were leaving the village," said Ayushi's aunt.
The family managed to escape to Delhi finally, after switching off their mobile phones thereby hiding their geo-location. No one knew about their plans till they reached the capital city.
But even miles away from their home, they say they are still living in fear.
They say that although the neighbours are supportive, they are scared to talk as they fear for their own safety.
One of the neighbours whose family has lived in the vicinity for the past 30 years said that Ayushi's family had been in the village for "as long as they could remember". "They are good people and nobody ever thought that they would have to undergo such problems," they told BOOM. The neighbour said that the family would largely keep to themselves.
"We never saw any fights between these two families, so to find a conclusion of why Guddi and others committed such a crime, is very difficult," said a neighbour on the condition of anonymity.
The 14-year-old was a quiet, studious girl who also had to manage the household as she lived away from her mother who would often come to visit her. "From helping her grandmother with the household to maintaining her grades in the class, Ayushi managed it all," a neighbour said.
Back in the national capital, the family of six had arrived armed with Ayushi's school mark sheets, Aadhaar card, FIR and post mortem report to get the attention of national media.
What Has Been Found In The Investigation?
Inspector Sadanand Singh said that they have arrested four men - Ramesh, Vicky, Gajraj, Dharoraj. A woman, Guddi Devi has been named in the FIR for kidnapping, killing and hanging the 14-year-old from a neem tree. She is still on the run.
The family alleged that though the matter was taken up by the district police, the authorities haven't even started a proper investigation.
They say that Guddi Devi has not yet been arrested because of her links with the Bhartiya Janata Party. "Every time we ask them about Guddi, they tell us 'chaar log jo pakde hai wo kam hai kya? (We have nabbed four, is that less?)"
BOOM reached out to Dr. Anil Kumar, SP of Bhadohi district who said, "Four people have been arrested so far and the FIR has been registered too. Our search operation for Guddi Devi is still underway."
However, when asked why there were no charges of rape he said that "no rape has happened".
When asked whether rape charges will be imposed, the Inspector of Gopiganj PS said, "It will only be decided when the final postmortem report comes."
It took her parents 48 hours before they could reach Bhadohi from Surat. By then, the last rites had already happened. The police allegedly forced the relatives there to cremate the 14-year-old. "I couldn't even see my daughter's face," cried the father.
However, the police have denied the allegations. "The authorities never forced the family to cremate the body. It's not the truth," the IO said.
The case has revived the chilling memories of the Hathras rape case of September 2020 where a 19-year-old Dalit girl was raped and brutally assaulted in UP's Hathras by her upper-caste neighbours. The girl died after nearly two weeks of battling for her life. The police had then not allowed the family to take her body home and they were forced to cremate her immediately.
What Is The Victim's Family Demanding?
The family of the victim alleged that the police have so far not done anything to nab the main accused because of her political connection.
They say that the FIR does not mention rape and the POCSO Act that should have been invoked in this case has not been done.
When asked about the possible alleged connection of Guddi Devi and other accused with the Bhartiya Janta Party, the police said, "We don't have any idea of the accused having any relationship or ties with the BJP. However, the investigation will not be affected if they are related to any political party."
Meanwhile, the victim's uncle is disappointed with the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the politician he had voted for. "I have been a part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for more than 30 years, I have prayed and done publicity for Yogi Adityanath so he comes to power, but is this what I get in return?", asked the uncle of the victim.
"Baba ko bolo Bulldozer roko thode din ke liye aur pradesh ki betiyon ko bachaye (Tell him to stop the bulldozer and instead save the daughters of the state)", he said.
BOOM spoke to the doctor, Dr. Phool Chandra Bindh, who conducted the post mortem. "There are predictions of rape in the preliminary report. However, it cannot be said certainly unless we have a report coming from the lab," he said.
On being asked why there has been a delay of two months, the doctor said, "It takes its own time."
The uncle of the victim told BOOM that the doctor had earlier told the family that it was a case of rape.
On Wednesday, after a week in Delhi, Ayushi's family left to return to their village. "Surviving in Delhi is not easy. For how many days will we stay in gurudwaras?" they asked as they packed their bags to leave.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?