Written by fountaininkseries

The male force The abuse and systemic marginalisation of policewomen in India.

The male force The abuse and systemic marginalisation by fountaininkseries

BY ALIA ALLANA

“Shall we have fun?” a junior told constable Aradhya as he put his service revolver to her head. She was inside a police vehicle, in the dead of night somewhere near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh (UP). The constable had stalked her the entire night at a mela where they were deployed. She was gang-raped by two policemen, the men she served with, and the police driver. After they raped her, the constables discussed whether they should kill her. Eighteen months later there is no case, the constables continue to work in the force, a short distance from her police station.

Just about five per cent (84,479) of the 16.7 lakh-strong Indian police force is made up of women. Almost all the women enter at the lowest ranks, and eventually retire at the same rank. Most are denied active policing roles, except for bandobast—large scale deployment for crowd control and VIP movement—and spend their careers doing tasks the male-dominated force deems fit for them. This includes writing reports, housekeeping at police stations and the houses of senior officers, and other such duties.

Sexual assault and harassment in police forces across the country is startlingly frequent, a Fountain Ink investigation has revealed. It is as a matter of routine hushed up, and even in cases where victims persist—often at a great cost—justice is elusive. Police personnel from the ranks of constable to DGP across five states were interviewed, and case records reviewed in the course of the investigation. Almost all of them refused to be named; they couldn’t be seen talking negatively about the force. Those who spoke did so with great unease.

In the police, there is a minimum-hassle approach to rape or “354” as cops call it after the Indian Penal Code section that defines sexual offences. It is heightened when both the victim and the perpetrator are one of their own.

“You know, men and women, when they are together, sometimes this happens,” said an Inspector-General (IG) of police at the iconic neo-Gothic headquarters of the Mumbai police at Crawford Market. His views on the matter are almost Victorian, perhaps fittingly for the police force which itself is a remnant of colonial rule.

“The police are no different than the rest of society,” he said.

A constable in north Mumbai said male cops often comment about the looks of policewomen they work with. “The problem starts with the uniform. Policewomen feel uncomfortable wearing the fitted pants that draws a lot taunts on their figure. Passing judgment and backslapping are common.” The inspector said this practice was almost universal in police stations in Mumbai.

When a policewoman musters the courage to report harassment or assault, nothing comes of it. In at least five cases that Fountain Ink tracked—three in Maharashtra, one in Odisha and one in UP—the matter was hushed up or the accounts of victims were discredited. Cases are often finished off at the level of a departmental inquiry; sometimes a short suspension may be in order.

“Like a smack on the hand with a ruler,” said constable Kavita who was sexually assaulted at Sewri Port while she was on patrol one evening in April 2016. The cops at the police station tried their best to underplay the matter. They discouraged the filing of an FIR and the constable’s husband backed the superiors to avoid “blackening their name”. She relented, but even departmentally nothing happened. The constable who assaulted her continued to work by her side. He was simply ordered to issue an apology for sexually molesting her. He was finally suspended when a woman officer took charge. When I called the officer to know more about the case, she said coldly, “You’ll find that the girl has retracted her statement.”

In at least two other cases lower-ranked complainants continued to take orders or work alongside men they accused of sexual assault.

A woman police inspector in Mumbai, a statistical rarity, said: “You think it’s easy for us to report sexual assault when we are the victims?” She claimed that of the 94 police stations in Mumbai, “almost all” had tales of sexual assault of a policewoman by a policeman. There are no numbers to back the claim.

In cases from Delhi to Yavatmal, from small towns in UP to Kutch, Fountain Ink found a concerted effort on the part of police to hide the issue. No official statistics are kept and few details of internal disciplinary action are released.

Like any other employer, police are duty-bound to implement their obligations under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act, 2013. Every district has an Internal Complaints Committee (ICI) where a policewoman can file a complaint. There is a Central Internal Complaints Committee (CICC) at the headquarters level as well but these committees often exist only on paper.

There are broken, assaulted policewomen across the country, suffocated by the male culture in the force. They continue to don the uniform and report for duty, and enforce laws and protect the system that failed them.

***

It was an unremarkable afternoon in the summer of 1987 when constable Aradhya came across an advertisement in Amar Ujala. The police were recruiting at a time when a woman in khaki remained a novelty.

“I’d always been motivated to do good. Lawyers lied, politicians cheated and so I chose the police,” she told me.

In secret, she filled out the form. A job in the police would be a ticket out of small-town life, guarantee of a future unlike that of her home-bound uneducated mother. A couple of months passed, and just as the thought of being in uniform began to slip out of her mind, two constables came knocking on her door. Her father answered.

“Is your daughter home?” one of them said.

“Has she done something wrong?” her father asked.

Aradhya had been dreading this moment. She had turned 18, the age when one thought of marriage, not ambition. Her father was aghast. A poor farmer with a big patch of land, he belonged to a time when a woman’s place was in the house. They definitely didn’t wear pants and wield power. But she didn’t relent. She was recruited.

At the Shahjahanpur Police Training School, she made a name for herself as a runner. Aside from the mundane—filing FIRs and lodging complaints—she found herself challenged and excelled at physical education. More often than not, she “came Number 1” in the 50-and 100-metre races.

When a policewoman musters the courage to report harassment or assault, nothing comes of it. In at least five cases that Fountain Ink tracked—three in Maharashtra, one in Odisha and one in UP—the matter was hushed up or the accounts of victims were discredited.

On February 1, 1988, after completing training Aradhya graduated as a constable. When she appeared in khaki before her family, she vowed to her father to always think of her “seniors as her mother and father and the force as her family”.

Her pay was modest—Rs. 3,000 per month—but the pride with which her family and friends looked at her was priceless. The following year her younger brother also entered the force.

***

A 2013 home ministry figure states that women constitute a mere 5.33 per cent of the police force. Of the 15,85,117 personnel working in the state police forces, only 84,479 are women. A 2014 figure released by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) places the strength of police in India at 17,22,786. The BPR&D is a consultancy under the Centre for police modernisation.

For a population of 122 crore, this is a ratio of approximately one police officer for every 708 people. Out of the 15,000 police stations across India, just 518 are all-women police stations.

State-wise, of the 1,73,341 police personnel in UP, only 2,586 are women while in Andhra Pradesh there are just 2,031 policewomen, 2.27 per cent of the 89,325 police personnel.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh have better representation, but there are only 5,356 policewomen in Delhi out of 75,169 police personnel (7.13 per cent).

In 2014, the NDA government decided to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women in police in all seven union territories including Delhi, a proposal that was initiated by the previous UPA regime.

Many states have acted on the home ministry’s advisories to adopt a reservation policy for women in police forces. Twelve states, Maharashtra, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Sikkim, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tripura, Telangana, and Uttarakhand have a reservation policy of 30 per cent or more for women in the police.

Several constables I spoke to cited their frustrations with the lack of promotional opportunities and the assumption that they were unqualified or incompetent for frontline postings. Even in the case of a crime against women, a male colleague had a greater chance of landing the case, they said. There is a need for a gender-neutral cadre while several female constables at Thane Jail suggested gender sensitisation workshops for police officials who live and work in the confines of the jail.

Given the gender bias, it is not surprising that despite the reservations and advertising vacancies for women constables in Andhra Pradesh between 2005-2010 quotas went unfilled. The intake of women police in Rajasthan, Haryana and Assam did not match the number of women in the employable category. In some states, there are simply not enough takers for the job.

***

Despite the pride she took in her uniform Aradhya remained shackled by the prejudices of society. When she travelled between house and police station, she draped herself in a large chunni, body and face covered. Only upon scrutiny could one make out the khaki pants that were visible from the knee down. Still, Aradhya found the job empowering.

It didn’t matter that most of the time she sat behind a desk doing what her colleagues thought was “women’s work.” She entered names in the log book and answered the phone, a job she does even today. But policing was also an adventure.

Once a year, she would have the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country, often on her own. She was a member of the cross-country police bandobast team at the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. The massive crowds made it seem as though “almost everyone from India” had descended onto the banks of the Ganga. The number of people, the rush, made her town of Mainpuri seem like an isolated crater on the far side of the moon.

One day she was assigned VIP duty at a helipad. A flock of bureaucrats and reporters shielded themselves in the dusty field as a chopper descended, but Aradhya stood erect. When Mulayam Singh emerged, she was one of the policewomen who formed a protective ring around the then Chief Minister. VIP duty placed her in front of all sorts. When she saw Hema Malini, she was star struck. Her cousins made her recount the incident over and over again.

“The women of India are coming out,” she had said then. The sense of possibility was tangible as it had never been before when she came face to face with Kiran Bedi, the archetypal police officer, a woman who made it in a man’s world.

But for most of the year, life was dull. She shared a room in the police barracks with her younger brother and when she completed 15 years, she was transferred from Mainpuri to the next town, Etawah. By now, the glamour was wearing thin and even assignments seemed uneventful.

When she reported for duty at the Sangam in Allahabad she kept her eyes open for criminals and VIPs, but spent most of the day looking for the parents of a hysterical child.

“Agra, Aligarh, Jalandhar, where didn’t I go?” she said. Despite the frequency and need for travel, the police provided no facilities, neither transport nor accommodation. There were no temporary barracks for the visiting force. “No woman officer was naïve enough to assume there would be a ladies’ toilet,” she said. Her years of service meant that she knew the drill and when she read her name on the duty-sheet for the Jalvihar Mela in Mauranipur she was, at best, ambivalent.

***

In the summer of 1981, Meeran C. Borwankar became an IPS officer. A no-nonsense woman, she climbed through the ranks. As Mumbai’s first female chief of the Crime Branch she led a 200-man-strong team and cracked investigations into organised crime. Her profile rose when she investigated the infamous Jalgaon sex scandal where local politicians were accused of luring young girls with promises of jobs and loans.

“It wasn’t easy. Thirty years ago, the number of women in police could be counted on one’s hands. I was uncomfortable, as were the men. Back then there were just eight or nine women in the whole district. When we were handling the Jalgaon sex scandal, there was just one female sub-inspector and a few female constables so we’d ask neighbouring districts to send female constables. I was apprehensive and so was the police. Nobody was used to women in a high position. It was a big challenge,” she said.

Years later when a senior police officer tried to act too friendly, she was quick to slam him down. Despite that, there was sexism. “When I became DCP Mumbai, our commissioner asked how will you do night rounds? Men felt as though I needed protection, but as DCP I was meant to protect people. This was patriarchy. Sharad Pawar wasn’t comfortable giving me a district, what if something goes wrong, they all worried? Who is there to secure you? ‘I said, I don’t need support’.”

Borwankar is currently on central deputation in Delhi as Director General, BPR&D. In 2015, she penned a report on the “Gender Friendliness of the Maharashtra Police” by interviewing women officers and constables in a varied sample set.

The report states: “Women constables have reported grave difficulty in balancing family life with a career in law enforcement. Police officers, both constables and sub-inspectors, have reported that male officers do not respect female officers; instead they keep passing remarks/taunting them.” According to the report “19.48 per cent of women constables and 18 per cent of sub-inspectors” spoke of a lack of gender respect in the police.  Six per cent of sub-inspectors and 2.57 per cent of constables surveyed remarked on the “morally incorrect conduct of male officers”.

Borwankar said: “Men in the police, especially in rural areas haven’t seen women in such challenging jobs. They feel that women taking these jobs makes them loose women, that they are available and they take certain liberties. Women who are coming as constables are coming for bread and butter while women as sub-inspectors are assertive, they come for ambition. The more women in higher roles the higher the gender friendliness. The constable-level feel the pain and they aren’t empowered enough to get change implemented.”

At least 1.71 per cent of women constables said that seniors expected “physical favours” from them.

***

It started with an order. Constable Aradhya had been summoned to the Captain’s (SP’s) office. He spoke in a crisp, hurried manner. “Pack your bags, you are leaving tomorrow,” he said.

Aradhya would travel to Mauranipur, a sleepy town near Jhansi that woke once a year for the epic Jalvihar Mela where deities would be taken in procession through the town and submerged in the river Sukhnai. After the ritual, the fair would last for up to a month. The following morning she set off, travelling 277 km from Etawah to Jhansi on her own by train.

Aradhya had made arrangements for accommodation as well. She would stay at an old woman’s house whom women in the force fondly referred to as Ma.

The first thing she did upon reaching Jhansi was register at the police station. She had one night to settle in. The next day she took a bus to Mauranipur. When she reached, lights were being fixed in the market place. At the station there, she entered her police ID number in a log book and was issued instructions:

“Ensure that there is no fighting, no rough behaviour or eve teasing.”

The first three nights of patrol were uneventful. She met female constables from across India, ate in the mess behind one of the stages and on the fourth night, ran into a new recruit, class of 2011, from her district. Constable Rani and Aradhya knew of each other and felt a sense of kinship because of their connection to Etawah.

They decided to spend the rest of the night patrolling together.

***

In police parlance there is a word for the mistreatment of women in the force. It’s simply called “male culture”. It serves as a reminder that though being in the police allows a certain degree of power, policewomen are prone to assault and harassment like women in any other workplace. It is this culture that sees women as inferior, unable to shoulder the same responsibilities as men.

Given the low representation of women, a culture of masculinity dominates the force. In several conversations across police stations in Mumbai, women constables expressed their frustration at being forced to accept working alongside colleagues who harassed them. A constable in south Mumbai said her superior had assured her a promotion if she performed oral sex on him in the police station; another constable in Thane who was routinely harassed by a senior considered resignation because of “improper” phone calls late in the night. Most of the female constables remained silent or were silenced.

Men in the police, especially in rural areas haven’t seen women in such challenging jobs. They feel that women taking these jobs makes them loose women, that they are available and they take certain liberties. The constable-level feel the pain and they aren’t empowered enough to get change implemented.

When someone speaks out they face retaliation. Constable Pawar, a fresh recruit at Thane Central Jail, had shifted to the outskirts of Mumbai from Nagpur. She was assigned a shared room at Shraddha Building inside the jail. Fifteen days into her new job, where she logged the name of visitors at the control room, she and her roommate were called to the superintendent’s office.

The superintendent sat behind a big desk and waved a piece of paper. He claimed it was an anonymous letter about her conduct.

“Are you conducting illegal activities in your bedroom, entertaining policemen late at night? Is this true or false?” he asked.

The constables were aghast.

“False,” they said.

The superintendent called the female officer in-charge. She assured him the women were of “good character”. While exiting, constable Pawar requested the superintendent to shift her from the Control Room. She was highly educated and could manage a more challenging job. Eight days later, she got a better posting in the female jail division.

Troubled by allegations and rumours that had begun to spread, she asked her mother to come and reside with her. She handed in a letter asking for a room under her name. That evening, the superintendent called her to his chamber.

“I will give you a room but first I want to talk to you personally,” he said. Pawar called him at around 7 p.m. on his mobile but their conversation was cut short as he was driving. He asked her to call back within half an hour and before the time had lapsed, he called her. He asked her about the room application.

“If you want a room, come meet me at Kalwa Circle,” he said. Pawar refused and hung up. A short while later he called again, several times. She didn’t answer. When she did he told her he was waiting at Kalwa Bridge despite there being no plans to meet.

Over the next four days he called repeatedly. On August 2016, after being pressured, she agreed to meet him. She asked a constable with whom she worked at the jail to accompany her. They reached at 8 p.m. The superintendent was waiting in his personal car, a silver Swift.

“Why have you brought him? Have you told him you are meeting me?” he asked.

“No,” she said. It was a lie, but she was afraid.

The superintendent leaned over and opened the door. As he bent over, he grabbed her by the hand and pulled her in. When she tried to leave, he wouldn’t let go of her hand. Eventually she wrestled her way out and rushed back to her room.

Two days later, the superintendent sent her a blank message on his mobile.

“Tell me Sir,” she wrote at about 10:30 p.m.

“You hurt me. Till date, no one has hurt me like you have done,” he wrote back.

He continued to message her until about 1:30 a.m., imploring her to respond. She didn’t. Frustrated and insecure, she filed a written complaint at the office of the IG in Pune and the Deputy Commissioner (Western Zone). She showed them the messages on her mobile. When word spread, other women who had been sexually harassed by the superintendent reached out; women in Kolapur, Nasik, Amravati and the Pune Training Centre.

In this case it wasn’t just the facts of the case but that he was a “habitual offender” with three previous recorded incidents of sexual misconduct. He had been issued notices, undergone suspension but continued to remain in positions of power. After constable Pawar’s complaint, the superintendent has been suspended and told to vacate his bungalow on the jail premises. The case is on at Thane Magistrate’s court. According to the new jail superintendent, Pawar’s former boss continues to “malign her character by setting her up”.

This behaviour isn’t unique to India. A 2012 Guardian investigation found that the scale and extent of sexual abuse by police officers is “more widespread” than previously believed. The investigation has among other things found “a pervasive culture of sexism within the police service, which some claim allows abuse behaviour to go unchecked.”

***

By the fourth day, the crowd at Jalvihar Mela was bigger. After three night shifts, the cacophony, the non-stop music and the bright lights began to grate. Aradhya was assigned near the giant Ferris wheel where the shrieks of children and adults could be heard over the horns tooting incessantly.

In all the chaos, there was one constant: the gaze of a constable who had been lurking around them for a while.

“Why is that sepoy always looking here? Do you know him?” she asked Rani.

“Never seen him before,” she replied. They tried to ignore him.

As the night progressed, so did the sepoy’s boldness. He kept circling the two constables and walking closely behind him was another constable. When he walked close enough for the first time, the first thing Aradhya did was read the name tag: Vijay. The patches on his shoulder indicated that he was of the same rank as she. The other constable had no badge, a violation of the rules. At a safe distance was a shorter man with a handkerchief tied around his face.

“He looked as though he didn’t want to be recognised,” she said.

It was hard to get work done because of constable Vijay’s advances. But they continued to patrol and paused not far from the Ferris wheel where a commotion could be heard. As they approached, they could hear Bollywood item numbers blasting from a sound system. Two women gyrated to the beat. As men in the audience whistled and howled, the women in ghagra-choli thumped their breasts, bodies writhing, hips thrusting. Concerned about the safety of the dancers Aradhya pushed ahead but was relieved when she saw a man in white walking around the stage, quietening the men in the audience. In a bid to get to the front, one man had pushed another and a small scuffle had broken out. Despite this the constables carried on, leaving the women to sway together, arms intertwined.

“This was no place for a woman,” she said.

About half an hour later, Vijay and the other constable walked over.

“What is your ID number?” he asked.

Aradhya and Rani responded. They didn’t think to ask him why he wanted it. He spoke in a rushed, authoritarian manner despite being junior to Aradhya.

“I know the SO (Station Officer) in Jhansi. You are being called to the police station. Come with us,” he said.

She asked for more details but he simply urged them to make their way to Jhansi. By now, both women were irritated and uncertain.

There was no reason to disbelieve a colleague but his behaviour all night had been questionable. There was no transport so Vijay offered a ride. He told them he would be travelling between the two points and would be happy to ferry them back and forth for the remainder of the fair.

“He pointed to his white jeep,” she says.

By now, the number of drunks on the streets had increased substantially. Men walked into the policewomen routinely but this was the norm at all melas for all policewomen.

“Are you going to disobey orders from a senior?” he asked.

The policewomen looked at each other and him in silence.

“My jeep is empty and I am leaving for Jhansi now. Your SO has called you, are you coming?” he asked with force.

The policewomen walked to the toilet behind Mauranipur Police Station. Vijay tailed them and convinced them to get into his jeep. Rani sat in the front next to the man with the handkerchief wrapped around his face. Aradhya sat in the back sandwiched between Vijay and the constable without a name tag. The jeep had barely travelled 50 metres when Vijay offered Aradhya a “cold drink.” She took a few sips.

As the car pulled away from Mauranipur leaving the fair Vijay began talking boisterously.

“Should we have some fun?” he asked.

***

On January 6, 2015, a constable in Kakatpur, Puri, was raped by the inspector-in-charge while she was on night duty at the police station. The incident happened in the inspector’s chamber where he had summoned her. When the constable sought to complain, members of the force tried to silence her. Following an investigation, the inspector was booked for rape. When I spoke to the senior who had investigated the matter he said:

“The inspector has served time behind bars.”

How long? I asked.

“Fifteen days,” he responded.

Sexual assault and harassment in police forces across the country is startlingly frequent, a Fountain Ink investigation has revealed. It is as a matter of routine hushed up, and even in cases where victims persist—often at a great cost—justice is elusive. There is a minimum-hassle approach to rape or “354” as cops call it.

Later in 2015, a constable with the Wadgaon Jungle police station lodged a complaint of sexual harassment and molestation by an inspector. In May 2016, a female sub-inspector in Kutch East filed a complaint that the Kutch East police superintendent raped her and then forced her to have an abortion.

“Why do you want to rake up old issues?” asked a senior Inspector in Kutch while refusing to say anything on the case.

All the cases mentioned above failed to yield the seven-year punishment attached to the offence. The cases died unremarkable deaths.

***

“What are you doing?” Aradhya asked when he slid his arm around her shoulder and unfastened her clip.

“Cunt,” he barked at her.

He then unbuttoned her khaki pants and when she protested, he dug the mouth of his revolver into her skull. She remained silent until he fingered her, revolver held loosely against her temple.

“Motherfucker, I’ll show you what I can do,” he cursed. By now the cold drink he had offered her made her feel woozy. He waved his revolver around and she cautioned: “No need to shoot anyone.”

After he had raped her, he called his friend. “Bhaiya, your turn,” he said. She lay in a foetal position on the ground next to a tree. Then the other cop raped Aradhya. Then it was the driver’s turn.

“If only I were a man,” she told me and paused. “If only I were a richer woman. If only this weren’t a lawless land.”

***

Once the driver had raped her, the three men assembled.

“What should we do with her?” constable Vijay asked the others.

She began pleading.

“Spare me,” she said.

“Should we kill her and throw her in the river?” Vijay asked.

She pleaded for her life.

The three men nudged her towards the car. They continued this discussion inside the jeep. Constable Rani who had remained silent for much of the ordeal finally spoke up.

“Just drop us at the Jhansi police lines behind the State Bank,” she said.

It was then Vijay issued his threat: “I will take you by your chunni and strangle you and hang you if you utter a word of this to anyone.”

Constable Rani, a married woman, stayed quiet. She had too much to lose. Aradhya felt as though she would faint. They drove in silence until she could see the lights of Jhansi. When the car pulled into police lines, Aradhya began praying.

“Prabhu, help,” she repeated again and again.

When the car stopped, Rani got out and Aradhya jumped from the back seat and ran as fast as she could behind Rani. When they reached the room Rani was staying at, they didn’t speak about what had happened. Rani put out a mat on the floor for Aradhya to lie down.  A couple of hours later, the mat was covered in blood.

The following morning, she returned to Mauranipur and met another constable from Etawah. When she narrated the events to him, he was horrified but helpless. She met the captain and excused herself from duty by saying she needed to return for her “grandmother’s operation”. It was a lie but she was in no condition to work.

She didn’t dare tell the captain what had happened. Vijay’s threats had struck home.

***

“You should have called 100 right there and then,” Ma said.

She hadn’t stopped crying.

“How many girls? How many rapes?” she asked me.

She vowed to herself that she wouldn’t be silenced. What followed were a series of meetings where she recounted the incident. She made notes so that she would remain coherent, so that not even the tiniest detail would be under-reported or misstated. She filled out enough FIRs to know just how cases got botched, how many rapes went unreported.

She first stood in front of IG Kanpur Nagar. He listened in silence. He seldom made eye contact and she did her best not to cry. Often, she couldn’t hold back tears.

After him, she stood in front of SSP Etawah, Manzil Saini, the super cop with a physics degree from St. Stephen’s College. She spoke softly as though it were a dirty secret she was sharing. Aradhya was then directed to the Mahila Police Station where Vinita Sarthi, an inspector, wrote the FIR.

Sarthi will never forget the way Aradhya cried. She will never forget the conversation that didn’t make it to the FIR.

Aradhya wiped her tears with a red chunni. She said: “When I see a male constable, I see my brother but that night, that man did not see me as a sister. He didn’t even see me as an equal. He fingered me. He pulled my pants and threw me on the ground. He fucked me. And then invited two others to do so. Tell me, am I wrong? It is my fault? How do I get justice? Should I send my brothers after him to kill them all? What will that do? Break my family even more? Why is that man still in uniform and not behind bars in jail? Where is the law?

“I wanted to help her. She was one of us. I did everything I could but something happened in Lucknow,” Sarthi told me over the phone.

“Something like what?” I asked.

“The case got buried,” she said.

The case got buried despite the fact that Aradhya was so badly assualted that she spent 15 days in a hospital. It was forgotten despite her recounting the incident before a magistrate even when she had been too afraid to travel to Jhansi alone because of constable Vijay. Her cry for justice didn’t even reach the pile of letters placed in front of Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister. In her letter to the chief minister she recounted the events of the night, and said she suspected constable Rani of being involved in the plan. She said the perpetrators were being protected by the police department, and that she was receiving death threats.

But nobody in Etawah forgot, nor in Jhansi. When the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) heard of the brutality, they called for a report. A departmental enquiry was conducted and a report by the SSP Jhansi claimed: “On preliminary investigation, no evidence could be found of any crime committed upon the complainant. Hence final report Number 26, dated 12/4/2016 saw the submission of a cancellation of the FIR. It is pending cancellation before the court,” said a spokesperson of the NHRC.

The NHRC has not accepted the report of the SSP. They would like to know whether a medical examination was conducted. The commission also desired the entire record of the case file as well as witness and victim statements and the FIR. “The case is not closed at the NHRC,” he said.

An IG in Lucknow with access to the case and the findings from the departmental enquiry stated that several reasons were given to discredit Aradhya’s account.

The first was that she was unable to decipher the exact location of the incident, which weighed against her. The second was that she reported the case in Etawah when the incident occurred in Jhansi. The third was that she waited for a few days before a medical and was therefore found to be not substantially harmed. The fourth and crucial reason was that constable’s Rani’s testimony as witness didn’t back up Aradhya’s claims. “She simply  denied anything wrong had happened,” the IG said. The final reason was that she was “having an affair with a cook” which meant she was of “loose character” anyway.

Constable Aradhya isn’t the only woman in the police who has been sexually abused, molested or raped by members of the police force.

“I won’t be the last,” she said.

***

Postscript:

Constable Kavita has been off duty from Sewri police station for the past few months. Though the inspector in-charge claims she is suffering from TB, her husband says she is distraught and struggles to come to terms with what happened to her.

Constable Pawar has been a victim of sting operations conducted by the accused ex-superintendent of Thane Jail. He claims she is receiving bribes in order to allow mobiles into the prison, an allegation she denies. The case is in court and a departmental enquiry is underway.

The Investigating Officer in Puri had almost forgotten about the case. “He’s done his time in jail, why should he be there for more than 15 days,” he said. The Dalit girl continues to come to work.

Constable Aradhya continues to work, but can’t get ver the trauma. “My life is ruined,” she said.

 

(Aradhya, Kavita, and Pawar are not their real names.)

(Published in the March 2017 edition of Fountain Ink.)

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