Betrayed by boyfriend, Dalit girl was gang-raped twice

On September 24, a 16-year-old Dalit girl in Maharashtra’s Dhule district was gang-raped twice in broad daylight — first, by a group of men, including her boyfriend, and then by a gang of labourers who witnessed the crime. Surekha (name changed) has recovered from her injuries and looked remarkably composed when The Hindu visited her. She is determined to return to her studies and join the police. “Whatever happened was bad, but that will not stop me from going back to school. I want to study and become a police officer,” she told The Hindu.

An 11th Standard student, Surekha is from the Mahar caste. She was first gang-raped by four upper-caste Maratha men she knew, including her boyfriend of two years. And then she was brutalised by four labourers from the Bhil tribe who had witnessed her ordeal. All eight have been arrested and charged with rape and violation of The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The incident, however, came to light on October 1, when one of the accused told a local newspaper about the incident. He did this in a bid to shift the blame on the other accused, the police say.

After the report appeared, the police started searching for people who matched the description of the people mentioned. They first arrested the group of labourers, who led them to the other four men. All eight of them have confessed to the crime, said deputy police superintendent Chandrakant Gavali.

According to the police, Surekha’s 19-year-old boyfriend Umesh Kangude did not want to marry her. To stop her from pestering him, he planned the rape with three of his friends. On that day, he told Surekha he would take her to a relative’s place in another village four kilometres away for a religious event. On the way, at around noon he stopped at a secluded spot under a bridge where he and his friends raped her, the police said. Umesh even filmed Surekha’s nightmare on his cell phone.

A group of labourers passing by happened to witness the crime. To get them to keep quiet, Umesh and his friends suggested they also rape the girl, the police said. The labourers went ahead and Umesh filmed this too. Umesh and one of his friends then dropped her back home and gave her painkillers to ensure that she wouldn’t go to a doctor, Mr. Gavali said. Umesh and his friends, all of whom are school dropouts, threatened to make the video public if Surekha went to the police. “I was scared. I didn’t know what to do,” she said. It was only after the police counselled her that she agreed to file a complaint.

But Umesh’s betrayal still hasn’t sunk in. Although in the FIR, Surekha stated that Umesh and his friends raped her, she is hoping for some explanation for his behaviour. “Rahul [one of the accused] must have performed black magic on both of us. I don’t know how I agreed to go to another village with him. Umesh will never do this. He even ensured that I got back home safe and gave me medicines,” she says.

Surekha has two younger brothers. Her mother, Ashabai (name changed), is a widow and works as a labourer. She was not aware of her daughter’s relationship with Umesh. “She never leaves the house without telling me. She goes to school regularly. Somebody must have cast a spell on her.” However, she stands by her daughter’s determination to go on with life, refusing to bow to stigma.

Keywords: Dalit girlgang rape