Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gurgaon Acid threat case: Are we waiting for another Acid Attack in front of us?

In 2012, India saw one of the biggest protests on the streets when a girl was brutally raped in a horrific incident which is widely known as Nirbhaya Rape case. Everybody talked about justice. 

Cut to June 2015: A young girl is physically assaulted by a middle aged man in Gurgaon; he threatens to throw Acid on her face in public; an FIR is lodged (with many difficulties); he was arrested and then granted bail within five days! He is now out in the open. 

Nothing much has changed. The system has not become more sensitive. Rapes continue to take place in the National Capital Region (NCR), and acid attacks are a reality this society needs to deal with. The protests, the committees, the much talked reforms- have still not been successful enough to create a women-friendly environment in India. 

A young Gorkha Girl Assaulted and Threatened of Acid Attack in Gurgaon

A young Gorkha girl in her 20s has been assaulted in Gurgaon by a man named Shailendra Chauhan. Shailendra, in his late 30s, had been stalking the girl, who works in the retail sector for the past year. The victim has narrated the incident in an interview. She said, “I work in retail and I was placed at my company’s branch in Galleria market (Gurgaon). I would often find this man staring at me from outside. Soon he started visiting our store and trying to converse with me. The way he used to talk to me seemed dangerous and I used to get scared. When I was shifted to our store in Ambience Mall (Gurgaon), he followed me there as well. I realized he was spying on me when for a day I was shifted to another department and he came there as well. He used to come wherever I used to be.”

Later the girl confronted the man, who got aggressive and abused her. The girl took the matter to her colleagues in the store she was working at. When the colleagues confronted Shailendra, he apologised, and assured them he would not hurt the girl.

But , after 25 days on May 30th, Chauhan came back and physically assaulted the girl by slapping her when she was trying to catch a rickshaw near her work place. Chauhan not only slapped her on a busy road, but when she tried to run caught her and banged her face at least five times. He also said that he will destroy her face. Meanwhile no one came to support the girl. Only another woman got out from her car and saved the girl. 

The un-helpful Gurgaon Police

After the incident, the victim who was extremely traumatized and scared, went to file an FIR in the DLF Phase 2 Police Station, Gurgaon. Unsurprisingly, the Gurgaon police did not take the FIR, citing unavailability of a women constable. Instead the duty officer asked her to submit a complaint in writing. He also asked her to write it in Hindi, a language the victim was not comfortable with. Being from the North-Eastern part of the country, Hindi is not her mother tongue. A friend accompanying the victim wrote the complaint instead. The duty officer also asked her to write in brief, and not mention that the accused was stalking her for the past year. Later the lawyers informed the victim that because of this the case had become weak. 

The duty officer had told the victim that a woman constable would call her a day later and would record the formal FIR. But nobody from Gurgaon police reached out to the victim. When she herself called the police, they told that the woman constable is busy in some other important case. 

The girl then reached out to the North-East helpline number. It was only then the case came under the attention of IPS Officer Rohin Hibu, an officer with Delhi Police. He informed about it to an organisation of young people from North-East called Gorkha Youth and Student’s Association (GYASA). The organisation immediately reached out to the victim. Realising the seriousness of the matter, the members of the organisation tried putting pressure on the police. Because of their efforts, the accused was arrested and the case was taken to the court. GYASA ensured that medical examination of the victim was conducted by the police. 

Sangeeta and Dinesh, members of GYASA, informed that the case was put forward to the civil judge. The defence lawyers had appealed for bail, but it was rejected first. It has also been reported that the accused is son of a former Air Marshal of Indian Air Force. Finally the accused got bail on June 6, 2015. This came as a big shock to the victim, who is now scared of the consequences. 

Waiting for another Nirbhaya or Acid Attack?

As the accused is out on bail, the victim had to leave her home and move to a disclosed location. The police has not provided any security to the victim, despite the fact that she has demanded it. Sangeeta Pradhan, General Secretary of GYASA said in an interview, “When the accused first applied for bail we were present and we saw how aggressive he was. He was abusing the witness. So security for the witness and the victim is necessary. If that is not done, we will not allow the accused to be let out on bail. We will sit in protest especially as the guy has already threatened to disfigure her face saying “Tera chehra bigad dunga, tujhe tere chehre pe bahut ghamand hai (I will disfigure your face, you are very vain about your beauty).” If that girl hadn’t helped her out, we don’t know what he would have done to her. We want justice in this case.”

It is really sad that our judicial system has granted bail to a person with heinous intentions. Why should a girl stay in an isolated place? Is it not the duty of police, administration and judiciary to ensure that the girl is safe in the city? A criminal is out on bail, and a girl for no fault is sitting in an isolated location, unable to go to her work place. This is a classic example of how the system fails its own people. 

It is time we all should come forward and create a pressure on the police, administration and judiciary to ensure justice is served, and the innocent girl is able to move freely in the society- and not a criminal!

An shorter and amended version of this article was published on LokMarg on June 11, 2015

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