Communal riots, rape, rumour in Malegaon

Malegaon: The last time a rape took place in Malegaon was during the communal riot of October 26 2001. A girl named Mumtaz was raped by several men from the Hindu community near the Girna dam. The case was registered, one of the rapists committed suicide during the trial, another died a natural death and the third was convicted and is in jail. At that time, more than 200 villages were affected by the riot that killed more than fifteen Muslims. A Hindu also lost his life. The riot started when a police man tore a handbill titled “Be Indian and Buy Indian” goods being distributed after Friday prayer at the Jama mosque. The Hindutva groups spread false rumour that fifteen Hindu women were raped. The Asian Age had sent its reporter Clarence Sequeira to verify the figure. She found that no Hindu woman was raped. When she questioned the police they told her that all the fifteen were high born ladies and would not reveal their identity. The reporter found no case registered as far as the alleged rape of the fifteen was concerned.

A rape can cause riots and the 2001 case was just that. The rumour spread like wildfire and Muslims suffered enormously in more than 200 villages and beyond. Just because of the rumour.

More than ten years later and two bomb attacks after, Malegaon has a second rape case which has the ingredients of a communal disturbance.

A Muslim girl Sakina Afroz Shaikh (name changed), aged 15, was grazing her cattle in the forest area near Chinchgavan. Her brother Amjad was with her as they were on their way back with their tiffin box. Two Hindu youths Ankush Shom Pawar and Eknath Sitaram Sonowne kidnapped her at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 28, 2011. They beat up Amjad and scared him away.

They covered her mouth and gagged her, she swooned. When she recovered and regained consciousness, she started struggling. They carried her off to a place near Kushyaba temple. Ankush Pawar raped her twice. Eknath Sonowne returned to the village to see what the reaction of the kidnap and rape was. Amjad told his family pointing to Eknath that he was the one with Ankush who had abducted his sister. On receiving the news, the family of the rape victim went to the police station and lodged a police complaint.

An FIR was lodged in Malegaon and the police sent her for medical examination at the civil hospital. Dr Nikhat Parvez along with two nurses conducted the check up. Swabs with semen were obtained. Her dress with semen was also taken from the hospital. The medical report mentioned that her hymen was freshly ruptured but it also says that she was ‘habitual’. That would mean that she has had frequent sex. The space mentioned in the report is ‘two fingers’. How could there be fresh rupture of hymen if she is called habitual?

The girl is a minor and says loud and clear that this incident took place and identified the two above-mentioned fellow villagers. But her relatives named one police constable Sanjay Pawar attached to Malegaon police who is trying to persuade them to have the matter settled in the village “tanta mukti” council, local council for settling dispute.

When they complained to the sarpanch, village head, Pappur Goturam Pawar, he told them that if they give in writing he would have Sanjay Pawar transferred. The police have arrested the youths. The family of the girl fears that when court meets on April 13 the accused would get bail. They have also expressed fear as the associates of the accused, namely Sanjay Wagh Naik, Dattu Bhiva Gere, Chandersing Sadhu Wagh, Sitaram Sonowne, Chanderram Sitaram Sonowne, Sanjay Sahebrao Naik and Dashrat Kama Singh have threatened them with dire consequence.

An aunt of the girl fears that the Hindus would have false cases registered against the Muslims and have them arrested! This would not only tip the balance against the Muslims but may lead to their forced migration as it happened in 2001.

So the need for impartial inquiry into the whole matter would go a long way to not only ensure justice to the girl but also ease communal tension that might lead to more trouble. It would also be desirable that women’s organizations come out and investigate the case and establish the facts. The national commission for women can also give a helping hand before the situation turns ugly.

In particular, the inquiry must focus on the police: why did they register the case under CrPC 366 (abduction) and not 376 (rape). Bias against the Muslims runs deep in the police and administration. This particular case is the latest example. She is saying that she has been raped and yet the police have registered the case under the clause applicable to abduction.

And who is the cop Sanjay Pawar to mediate in the matter and try to settle it out of court! His role is suspect and the director general of Police in Mahrashtra should look into the matter. Till 10:25 p.m. of Wednesday April 6, 2011 there was no change in the behaviour of the police.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2011 on page no. 4

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