On May 22, 1998, the victim of the heinous gang–rape incident in a Rajasthan University Boys Hostel eight months ago alleged that she had been gang–raped once again that evening — inside a Maruti van by four masked, armed men. In her FIR she said that assailants had threatened to wipe out her entire family if she did not drop her pending complaint against Prahalad Singh Krishaniya, a deputy superintendent of police (Dy. SP) and Dharmendra Singh Punia, son of an Addl. SP.
It may be recalled that her gang–rape on September 5 1997, by 10 men in the JC Bose Hostel had proved to be the last straw for the girl. She then gathered courage to report to the police not only about that particular incident of sexual abuse but also the sordid story of a seven–year–long sexual exploitation by numerous men with powerful connections.
Women’s organisations in Jaipur, the entire city and the outside world was outraged when the victim complained of being brutalised even while her earlier complaint is pending. The Janwadi Mahila Samiti, in the midst of its state convention when the incident happened, gheraoed the state secretariat the very next day. The main opposition party, the Congress, too, came out strongly against the incident. The outrage was compounded as the alleged assault was linked to police inaction in the earlier incident of gang rape and sexual exploitation over several years. Twelve of the accused are still absconding while the police refuses to treat Dy. SP Krishaniya (also son–in–law of an MLA) as an accused.
Between May 27 and May 30, the girl changed her story three times. She finally retracted her complaint and said she had not been raped at all. In her fourth statement to the police, she said she had gone over to a boy (a medico) from her work place of her own accord and had willingly had sexual intercourse with him.
Her retraction came as a big relief to the BJP’s Bhairon Singh Shekhawat–led government in the state. For the first time, Shekhawat had been faced with an aggressive Opposition that had decided to mobilise people on the issue of rape. The Congress had already raised the issue in Parliament and had planned a siege of the state secretariat on June 1 to highlight the deteriorating law and order situation in Rajasthan.
Besides, the retraction also gave the police a convenient justification for going slow in the proceedings against the accused in the earlier case lodged in September last year. It also came as a big relief to the hypocritical middle class of a conservative city whose conscience was burdened by her account eight months ago. It felt extremely uncomfortable being confronted, yet again, with the horror of something it had complacently refused to see before that fateful September. The relief also laid bare the vicariousness that was but an extension of the male marauders who had cruelly tossed around a woman victim like a sex toy for seven long years, ever since she was 17 or 18.
Acting as a handmaiden of these relieved groups, a section of the local press went to town, salaciously pointing an accusing finger at the girl morning after morning, resurrecting the already rejected theory of a nymphomaniac on the prowl endangering society’s morals. It also gave them the opportunity to put women’s organisations in the dock.
The daily Rajasthan Patrika (Hindi), said such organisations were not worthy of trust as they have always raised false cases — for example, the Sathin Bhanwari Bhateri and Shivani Jadeja (a girl on whom acid was thrown) cases. The Dainik Bhaskar went a step ahead. It published interviews of the wives of men who were being interrogated by the police and “established” the classic patriarchal stereotype: “a woman’s worst enemy is another woman.” The enemies in this case were the victim of the hostel rape case and women’s organisations that raised an unnecessary hue and cry and brought dishonour to respectable middle class families.
One does not know whether the girl’s fourth version, at the bidding of her father and the police, is final.