A Muzaffarnagar fast track court on Jan 21 had acquitted four men accused of gang raping a woman during the 2015 riots. The acquittal was made after the victim and key witnesses, including her husband, mother-in-law and a neighbour, were declared hostile and did not support the prosecution during the trial.
On asking about the U-turn they had taken, the victim’s husband said that seven months after they had lodged an FIR, “people on behalf of the accused would approach us, and even threaten us with dire consequences”. He said they were told to retract the gang rape charge.
He said he and the neighbour, also a witness in the case, met the then in-charge of Fugana and Burhana police stations to seek protection and action. But the police never took the complaint seriously.
“Despite lodging complaints several times at Fugana and Burhana police stations, no one came forward to help us. People on behalf of the accused would approach us, even threaten us with dire consequences. We are a poor family. There is no one to take care of my family if anything happens to me… We did what we thought was correct,” the husband said.
“With the monetary help provided by the state government, I built a house in Shamli. There is no plan to return to Fugana. I will also not file any appeal against the judgment,” he said.
When asked about the allegations of the victim’s husband, K B Singh, Muzaffarnagar Senior Superintendent of Police, said, “I am not even aware that any such judgment has been pronounced in any gangrape case. I will check the allegations levelled by the victim’s husband.”
Additional district government counsel Sajid Rana who appeared in the case — he was removed by the Uttar Pradesh government Tuesday following an uproar over acquittals in a 2013 riots case in which a child and woman were killed — said, “The accused were acquitted because four prime witnesses including the victim and her family members turned hostile and did not support the prosecution.
The SIT arrested and charge sheeted four accused — Ramveer, Sanjeev, Rupesh and Pushpendra — under different charges including rape, house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint. On the court’s order, police also attached properties of the accused while they were on the run.
The victim and her family, including four children, now live in Shamli district.
“My wife and I were in our house when the riots broke out on September 8, 2013. I heard a commotion and stepped out, telling my wife to lock the door from inside. A mob spotted and chased me. I ran to the terrace of my neighbour’s house. The mob broke open the door of my house and raped my wife,” the victim’s husband said.
“I returned home when the rioters left the village and looked for my wife. But she could not be traced. Three days later, I found my wife in another village. We took shelter there at the house of an acquaintance for almost a year before we moved to Shamli. My wife told me about how she was assaulted. We could lodge the FIR only after a few weeks when other rape victims met us and all decided to lodge complaints,” he said.
According to police records, the victim, in her FIR on October 1, 2013, alleged gangrape by 16 persons, all residents of Fugana village. The police had her statement recorded before a magistrate. During the probe, the Special Investigation Team concluded that 12 persons named in the FIR were not involved in the crime.