In a dramatic turn to the Ujjain minor rape case, an accused arrested by the police got injured, apparently in a bid to escape from police custody on Thursday. The Ujjain police have denied reports that there was an encounter with the accused and he received bullet injuries.
The accused, Bharat Soni, is an auto rickshaw driver and was the only one to rape the girl, Ajay Verma, in-charge of Mahakal police station in Ujjain, told media persons. Earlier, police had said that five auto rickshaw drivers with whom the girl was seen in CCTV footage had been detained for questioning. There had been apprehension of gang rape/multiple rape given the serious nature of injuries to the survivor. However, police have now confirmed rape by only Soni.
The injured accused was brought to the district hospital. Verma said that Soni had been taken to the spot of crime in Jeevankhedi to collect evidence, but tried to escape. The accused fell down in the bid and got injured. Two cops – including a head constable and a sub-inspector -were also injured in the chase, Verma said.
In the videos available, quite serious injuries with bleeding is seen in his left leg. To the pointed question whether the accused was hit by bullet, Verma said that there was no firing and ‘there were no actions that would violate human rights of the accused.’
Superintendent of Police (SP), Ujjain, Sachin Sharma had told media persons that bloodstains were found on the seat of vehicle of one of the suspects.
Meanwhile, the survivor has been identified as a tribal girl, 13, belonging to a village in Jaitwara of Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, about 740kms from Ujjain, the spot of crime. The girl, said to be slightly intellectually disabled, was reported missing by her grandfather to the Jaitwara police on Monday, the same day as she was seen in a dishevelled, blood-soaked condition on Ujjain streets.
According to the FIR registered in Jaitwara police station, the girl went missing on Sunday. The grandfather told the police that she was at home at around 10 am when he went out to graze goats, but was missing when he returned at around 6 pm. They searched for her overnight in vain. The girl’s mother is said to have left the home when the survivor was just a year old and her father is also said to be mentally unstable. The grandfather takes care of the family.
Additional superintendent of police, Satna, Shivesh Singh Baghel said that the FIR mentioned that the girl had been wearing a school uniform (blue salwar, jacket and white kurta) when she was last seen at home.
“The fact that the Ujjain survivor’s description in newspaper reports mentioned a school uniform, made us look at the incident and we thought it was the same missing girl. A team of senior officers have been sent to Ujjain along with the relatives of the girl and further legal action will be taken based on the inquiry and developments in Ujjain,” he said.
Sources said that the grandfather of the girl recognised her from the CCTV grabs shown to him.
The Ujjain SP also confirmed that the survivor was from Satna and said that the technical evidence suggested that she had travelled to Ujjain alone. Sources said that she might have come by train as there is connectivity between Jaitwara and Ujjain.
Earlier, there were speculations that the girl might be from Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, based on the dialect she was speaking. However, Jaitwara is close to the UP border and the dialect used is similar.
The incident has caused shockwaves across the country, especially as the girl kept roaming around residential colonies and busy streets for about two-and-half hours in half-naked and blood-soaked condition, but no one helped her or reported the matter to police. Finally, a priest Rahul Sharma at Dandi Ashram covered her up, fed her and called the police and medical assistance.
While the Congress has been in an attacking mode with leaders from state to national level including ex-president Rahul Gandhi condemning the incident and demanding action, the response of the government has been quite lukewarm. Home minister Narottam Mishra had said on Wednesday evening that a SIT had been constituted, a suspect had been detained and on the basis of interrogation, stringent action will be taken. However, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan was seen dodging the media's questions on the incident in Bhopal earlier in the day.
CRY decries community insensitivity, seeks punishment
Commenting on the incident of child rape in Ujjain, Soha Moitra, the Regional Director (North) of NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) said, “It is heart-wrenching to see how helplessly the child went door to door seeking help for more than two hours but no one bothered to step out and help. What’s more, some of them actually shooed her, as reported by the media. This manifests the prevailing social mind-set where there is a clear lack of humanity – and people don’t even bother to come to support a girl child in distress.”
“On one hand, it indicates the nonchalance of the people at large, and also the social perception and stigma, which, in a way, is one of the inherent causes behind the increase of sexual offences against children. Also, a clear reluctance to report such cases to the police is manifested, which comes from a sheer lack of awareness and misinformation about the existing legal provisions mentioned in the POCSO Act,” Moitra said.
She also mentioned that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 clearly states that any person (including the child), with an apprehension that an offence under POCSO Act is likely to be committed or has knowledge that such an offence has been committed, is bound to report to the Special Juvenile Police Unit of the local police.
The Act also states that any person, who fails to report the commission of an offence or who fails to record such offence shall be punished with imprisonment up to six months or with fine or with both, she added.
“In this case those who shunned away the child, knowingly or unknowingly committed the crime by not reporting the case. Thus, they must also be brought to punishment under the POCSO Act,” Moitra said.
Highlighting CRY’s policy of zero-tolerance towards sexual offences committed against children, she said, “CRY has always believed that child protection in our country cannot be ensured with just having legislations and numerous guidelines in place. We as a country need to commit to cultivate a culture of zero tolerance for violence against children. We should be vigilant and cognizant of the fact that children are at risk with gaps in infrastructure, processes and systems as well as public awareness. It is non-negotiable for the state and other duty bearers to equip themselves in recognizing these risks and put forth robust systems and processes to assess and eliminate the risks.”
“Considering the rising graph of crime against children in the country any child can fall prey to such heinous crime. Therefore, we not only demand stringent action against the accused, but also urge the community to be more aware about their responsibilities as citizens,” she added.