Two years ago, Muzaffarnagar witnessed one of the worst communal riots in recent memory. The clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities resulted in at least 62 deaths including 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus. Around 93 were injured and more than 50,000 displaced.
Six cases of rape were registered in the district, out of which trial in five cases is underway.
The sixth case was reopened for investigation following an appeal from the victim, while the accused’s lawyer has filed a revision petition opposing a fresh probe, reports Hindustan Times
. Charges are yet to be filed against the accused in some cases while some of the men accused of rape have sought more time from the court to hire lawyers.
One of the victims, said, “They have ruined my life.” Unable to even afford medicines for their children, her husband asks, “How can one expect us to continue fighting the case for so long?”
The fathers-in-law of two victims say life has become a living hell for the women’s children. They added that the men who sexually assaulted the women, aged 19 and 30, are free on bail and building pressure on them to settle the matter out of court. A local lawyer, Sajeed, revealed some startling facts about the cases. He said:
“Sixteen of the 22 people arrested on rape charges are currently free on bail. Relatives of some victims accused local leaders of providing legal and financial support to the perpetrators instead of helping the rape victims.”
Sajeed added that though the Uttar Pradesh government has provided police protection to the victims, the women still fear for their safety.
A senior lawyer who is fighting two of the cases, Vrinda Grover, believes the accused are deliberately trying to delay court proceedings so that they can buy time to convince the victims and their families to withdraw cases. “The court should be strict towards the accused to avoid further delay in giving justice to these women,” she says. Sajeed substantiated Grover ‘s claim. He said that after receiving threats from the family of the accused, two victims turned hostile and refused to identify the alleged rapists in court.
While some have given up hope, others are fighting a lonely battle.
Social activist Rehaana Adeeb, who heads the NGO Astitva, says only a few victims have come forward to fight for justice while several others continue to live in misery.