Whats App Voyeurs Fail to Save a Health Worker’s Life

Published on: January 25, 2016
express solidarity, call for strict punishment of the culprits and also to impress upon the family and villagers that the money (Rs 5 lakh) given by the state government be invested in Fixed Deposit in the names of her children. They reiterated their demands and declared that they will meet CMO after 10 days to pursue the matter. After the ‘Pagdi’ ceremony, two ASHAs spoke, paying tributes to their colleague Somwati. Both of them talked about how women are still discriminated against and urged all the men present to treat women with equality and dignity. They also stressed that this is not a Hindu – Muslim incident and no attempt should be made to portray it in a communal light. Speaking on behalf of the health movement and women’s movement Jayashree Velankar expressed solidarity with their actions and demands, and stressed on the need to look into safety of women workers. She critiqued the apathy and insensitivity displayed by the health ministry and bureaucrats.
Following her, Sadhvi Prachi made a fairly incendiary speech, warning those present that the government would not protect them; they should take things into their own hands. She made a strong appeal to boycott families of the culprits in addition to demand for imposing draconian laws like NSA.
Observations and preliminary Conclusions of the Team:
Police response –

1.Overall, it is commendable that the police showed promptness in arresting the prime accused Shahid that very night within six hours of the FIR. (The SHO and others reported complete cooperation from the local Muslim families in Chapra in locating where Shahid was.) During our interaction, members of the team explained to them the rationale behind opposing capital punishment or NSA for rapists and urged them not to press any demand for such measures. They expressed need for such information and dialogue.To date, the team has recorded, that a total of three arrests have been made and all accused have been sent to judicial remand.
2. Their immediate assumption is that it was an extra-marital love affair gone sour, and that this may have been consensual sex that was filmed. They have concluded this because of the call records. There is also a tacit assumption that it was a suicide as she felt betrayed and had lost her ‘izzat’ (honour). The team has commented that  that there should have been some exploring of the blackmail angle, or investigation whether there was any foul play. Why is the only conclusion that it was a suicide and failed love affair?
3. The team suggested to the SSP that the additional charges could be added of Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code which deals with the sale, etc., of obscene books, etc. and Section 66E of the Information Technology Act which deals with the punishment for violation of privacy, to which he readily agreed.
4. According to the assurance given to the team by the SSP, apparently the FIR upon ASHA workers will not be acted upon, it was more of a formality since they had blocked the road.
5. Given that Muzaffarnagar is a potentially inflammable area, the team has observed that there is clear pressure upon the police and their own anxiety to maintain communal harmony, given that this incident involved Hindus and Muslims. They were prompt in sending a police force to the village soon after Sadhvi Prachi left on January 16, 2016.
I. The Team’s suggestions for the police force:
a)  Investigation needs to be more open-ended: for there should not be an assumption she was having an extra-marital affair only based on call records. If the video is indicating use of force, then it was certainly rape and there may have been blackmail and threats before and after the rape. Also they need to establish number of videos that were circulated and whether steps have been taken to ensure they are no more in circulation.
b)  Further, if she wanted to commit suicide then why would she consume poison on her way to home from the doctor/health centre? Where did she go after coming out from the doctor/health centre; why did she send her son home by saying that she will join him later? Can there be some investigation if there was foul play?
c)  The Team strongly