Tag Archives: rape

WSS Statement in Support of the Women Survivors in the Dera Sacha Sauda Case

WSS Statement in Support of the Women Survivors

in the Dera Sacha Sauda Case

We, the members of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), salute the courage of the two women complainants who stood up to sexual oppression and relentlessly continued their struggle for fifteen long years. That they stood up against the might of someone with millions of followers, money and political clout, and in the face of innumerable threats over the years, is nothing short of heroic. We hail the brave journalist Ramchandra Chhatrapati, who paid with his life for first publishing the anonymous letter written by one of the woman in his newspaper “Poora Sach”. We also applaud the activists of Jan Sangharsh Manch, Haryana, for standing quietly and firmly with the women complainants for all these years, despite facing physical and mental violence.

We welcome the CBI court’s decision to sentence the accused to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment (10 years for each count of rape) and a fine of Rs. 30 lakh. It has also ordered for Dera property to be sold, if necessary, to pay for the damages caused by the rioting by the followers of the accused, over a judgement they were opposed to.

Sequence of events

In 2002, a ‘sadhvi’ serving in Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa (Haryana), wrote a letter anonymously addressed to the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, detailing the incidents of sexual violence meted out on the women by ‘Maharaj’, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. These sadhvis who live like his bonded slaves owing to their families’ faith in him were, according to the letter, routinely sexually abused by him. Any voice raised against this abuse was met with coercion and threats of – or actual — violence on the women and their families.

In the given case, the girl was summoned, by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to his private chambers. He used several ploys to coerce her including threats of murder for refusing to have sex with him and of burial of her body with impunity (her family’s faith in him would go against her in every way). He also talked about his considerable influence with the government of Punjab and Haryana and Central Ministers. The Dera head then raped her. In the letter, she also detailed cases of other women who had been raped and, after having left the Dera, were pressured and threatened by his followers to not reveal their ‘internal’ matters to the outside world. Over the past 15 years, some of those helping the sadhvis were killed and the women were continuously harassed.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the letter, on September 24, 2002, the Punjab and Haryana High Court referred the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for an inquiry. In this connection, 18 sadhvis were questioned, one of whom told investigators that the Dera chief and his followers were “very dangerous people”. Two of the women accused the Dera chief of rape. One of them said she had been raped in order that she may be “purified”.

Justice and its aftermath

The CBI filed a chargesheet in July 2007. On August 25, 2017, the special CBI court in Panchkula convicted Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh under Sections 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The rape conviction led to widespread rioting and rampant and open destruction of public and private property in Punjab and Haryana and parts of Delhi and UP by his followers. Reports indicate at least 35 people were killed in the ensuing violence and more than 200 were injured. However, in the majority of cases, it is unclear what the cause of death was and who the perpetrators were. The DIG has clarified that until the post-mortem is conducted, such information will remain unknown.

WSS does not believe that the state should deploy bullets to quell mass mobilisation (this also goes against international human rights Conventions) or file cases under the antiquated colonial sedition law. In this case, there were several measures the state could have taken leading up to the verdict that could have been more effective and ethical. The inability of the state and central government to control the building numbers of about one lakh followers of the Dera in public parks in Panchkula in the week prior to the verdict is reflective of the nexus of the “godman” and his henchmen with the state machinery. This, despite the police and the administration having been intimated at least one week in advance of the hearing, about the pile-up of petrol, diesel and assorted weapons by the Dera followers, and the impending violence that could be unleashed in case of a hearing that they would consider “unfavourable”. Why was no effective preventive action taken by the state government? Why did at least three Haryana ministers collectively donate Rs. 1.12 crore from their discretionary funds to the Dera chief since August 2016? What measures are going to be taken against those who actively encouraged the impunity of the sexual exploitation that went on within the Dera?

We stand with the women survivors who put the court process in motion and applaud their courage in face of violence and intimidation. We recognise faith-based collectives centred around a person considered ‘divine’ as spaces of control, coercion and violence on women’s bodies. The case also brings to the fore the absence of autonomy and voices that many of these women — despite being educated — lack in their natal and matrimonial homes, where the family will sometimes abet sexual violence. We also recognise that faith-based collectives provide a system of impunity that sexual and financial predators such as Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh take advantage of, by feeding off the oppression of a largely dalit bahujan following. We condemn the way such predators hollow out the rhetoric of an anti-caste collective mobilisation and deploy their followers towards a goal of impunity. We denounce the fact that, through their open support of the Dera chief, elected state representatives of several political parties have furthered the twisted links between caste, religion, patriarchy and the state, and have turned a blind eye to the violence and sexual exploitation that went on within its walls. We understand this exploitation may not be happening only at the Dera Sacha Sauda, but may be more widespread than has been acknowledged. The rape conviction of Asaram (again set in motion by a young victim in her teens) is yet another a case in point.

In the face of this political chicanery, it is encouraging to see that the courts have condemned the non-action of the governments in Punjab and Haryana and the centre and that the sentencing of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 10 years for each rape case and monetary compensation for each of the women survivors proceeded as per law without further violence.

We demand:

  • That the Dera Sacha Sauda be shut down and all the people — especially women and children — still staying inside, be evacuated as soon as possible and be amply compensated.

  • An independent investigation to probe allegations of sexual assault on other women residents of the Dera.

  • Speedy closure and justice to the complainants who registered other cases against the Dera chief, including murder and forced castration of male followers.

  • An inquiry into the role of the state and central ministers who openly showed their support to the Dera chief accused of rape, among other crimes.

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‘Gavahi’ – A WSS Book on Sexual Violence in South Chhattisgarh

 

This book is a comprehensive compilation of the incidents of sexual violence in South Chhattisgarh, drawing on independent investigations or joint fact findings by WSS.

Pre-order your copy by writing to booksbywss@gmail.com

Title – Gavahi
Language – Hindi
Cost – Rs100/- + Rs40/- postal charges if required.
Bulk orders accepted. Postal charges will be confirmed according to the quantity ordered.

AUD & WSS event to Commemorate Kashmiri Women’s Day of Resistance

Ambedkar University, Delhi and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression invite you to observe and commemorate the Kashmiri Women’s Day of Resistance and the horrific mass sexual violence unleashed by the Indian Army against the villagers of Kunan and Poshpora, Kashmir.

Date and Time: 23rd of February, 2017 (twenty-six years after the incident) at 2:30 PM, Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD), Kashmiri Gate Campus.

Jab Toot Girengi Zanjeerein

Commemorating Kashmiri Women’s Day of Resistance

On a cold February night in 1991, a group of soldiers and officers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles regiment of the Indian army entered two villages of Kunan and Poshpora in the remote district of Kupwara in Kashmir. The army claimed it was conducting ‘search and interrogation’ operations seeking out armed militants presumed to be hiding there. Instead, they pulled the men in the village out of their homes, subjected them to severe torture, including sexual assault and humiliation, and detained them all night. The women of the two villages were brutally gang-raped at gun-point; several women were sexually assaulted and stripped, and then left for dead in their own homes. The men were released in the morning and returned home to find the women raped and brutalized by the Indian army. Twenty-six years later, the memory of this mass rape, torture and humiliation by the men in uniform lingers in the valley. “Kunan Poshpora” and the day of the 23rd February has since become a symbol across Kashmir and beyond of women’s resistance to the militarization of this region by the State. Moreover, Kashmir was brought under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in 1990, after it had been in operation in several North Eastern States since 1958. Under this law, armed forces and other security forces in “disturbed areas” have the license to shoot to kill anyone on suspicion; make arrests without warrants; enter and search any home or establishment; detain and question anyone. Armed forces personnel and security forces have complete immunity for actions taken under this law, and their prosecution requires prior sanction of the government. RTI information has disclosed that Sanction for prosecution of armed forces even for egregious human rights violation has never been granted. Continue reading

No Strangers to Violence: More stories of rape and looting in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district

image1 for reportBetween the 5th and the 7th of May, 2016, a team of members from Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) and independent activists and reporters visited villages in Bijapur following a series of recent reports of mass sexual violence and assault on adivasi women by security forces and police in the area. The team visited a few villages in the Gangalur thana area, following reports of violence during a search and combing operation carried out by police and security forces. Villagers reported several instances of loot, plunder, arrests and violence over the last couple of years. In one such recent operation in November 2015, a young man was shot dead and then falsely declared a Naxalite; two young women were stripped, abducted and held in captivity in the forest for two days and were sexually assaulted. In another operation in January 2016, three young girls were sexually assaulted, and a young mother was brutally gangraped. This report details findings over two visits.

Press Statement: Once again in Chhattisgarh, the nightmare of rape, loot and physical violence repeats itself

Press Statement
9th May, 2016

(For a copy of the statement in Hindi, click here)

A team of activists from Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) and independent women activists and reporters visited villages in Bijapur following a series of recent reports of mass sexual violence and assault on adivasi women by security forces and police in the area. Continue reading

WSS Film – Encountering Injustice : The Case of Meena Khalko

Encountering Injustice : The Case of Meena Khalko

Synopsis – The film looks into an alleged encounter of a 15 year old adivasi girl, Meena Khalkho who lived in Village Karcha of Balrampur district of North Chhattisharh. She was killed by the police who alleged that she was a naxalite. Moving between the electronic news coverage of the incident and testimonies of her parents and other people from her village, the film investigates the claims of the police. Sexual violence, the attempt to suppress the truth of meena’s murder and the impunity of the culprits gradually comes to light. We also get a glimpse into how difficult and long the struggle for justice is in the conflict zones of the country. This film is part of a series of films called Loktantra Hazir Ho produced by the Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).

Rampant Looting And Sexual Violence By Security Forces In Villages In Bijapur, South Chhattisgarh

As the history books told us how the victorious king’s armies plundered after the occupation – Will the state continue to do the same under the garb of naxal operations and road-development work?

As an all-India fact-finding team of women, we were visiting Bastar to look at the status of women in conflict areas. When our team reached Jagdalpur and Bijapur, we were informed by the local journalists that there has been talk of rape and encounter killings in the Sarkeguda area but they have not been able to access the areas to get accurate information as the security forces had stopped them.

On Friday, October 30, our team informed the District Collector before setting out so that there would not be any problem in accessing the area. It was market day in Basaguda. We met many people from the villages where the recent incidents had occurred. Not in ones and twos, but in tens and twenties, the women shared their experiences of sexual violence including – molestation and rape physical beating, verbal abuse and threats, destruction and looting of property near Basaguda, Bijapur by the security forces and police who had come in 3 – 4 batches when they patrolled the villages starting from October 19/ 20 till October 24, 2015. The affected villages are – Chinnagelur, Peddagelur, Gundam and Burgicheru.

Continue reading