Confusion prevails on whether a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker was involved in the gang-rape of a minor in Uttar Pradesh, the politically tense state in northern India.
There were contradictory accounts about the incident on Friday. The first report by the national daily Times of India said that officials from India’s central investigative agency had “confirmed” that a lawmaker from the ruling government in Uttar Pradesh participated in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl last year. But within hours, the report was officially denied by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Sources who spoke to the Times of India said the CBI had corroborated the 17-year-old survivor’s allegation that Kuldeep Singh Sengar, the BJP Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), had raped her at his house in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district on June 4 last year.
CBI sources told the newspaper that Uttar Pradesh police played a role in safeguarding Sengar after rape charges were leveled against him. They corroborated the survivor’s allegation that police repeatedly kept Sengar and some of his close aides, including Shashi Singh who allegedly took the girl to the lawmaker’s house, out of First Information Reports (FIRs) filed by the girl and her family.
Last month, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government had to hand over the case to the CBI after widespread criticism of the Unnao police, who were popularly accused of “saving” the BJP lawmaker. Then, Sengar, Shashi Singh, and other accused people were arrested by the CBI.
Earlier, the state’s director-general of police OP Singh got into hot water by addressing Sengar as “honorable”.
“Nobody [in UP Police] is defending [the] honorable MLA, all we are saying is that we have to hear both sides,” he told the media. Earlier, six policemen were suspended after the survivor’s father died in police custody from injuries he got from a beating by Sengar’s accomplices.
An anonymous CBI official echoed the victim’s claims, saying the girl was raped by Sengar on June 4. She was brought to his house by aide Shashi Singh, who allegedly told the girl the lawmaker would provide her with a job. The girl didn’t speak out about the rape then as she had been threatened by Sengar’s men.
But on June 11, three of Sengar’s aides allegedly kidnapped her and repeatedly gang-raped her in an SUV for nine days.
The CBI has issued an official statement denying information was given by agency officials to the national daily on an anonymous basis. The agency said the “Unnao case is still continuing” and the “CBI has not given any update, conclusion, [or] views with respect to the case to any media person”.
If the paper’s report is correct it could mean more bad news for the ruling BJP in the run-up to the national election next year.
The party has already been widely criticised because state ministers rallied in support of individuals accused of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Kashmiri girl in Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir.
In the Kathua case, demands have been raised – by BJP ministers, lawyers and relatives of the accused – for a CBI probe into the matter. However, the Supreme Court has transferred the case to Punjab and ruled out a CBI probe after the victim’s family pleaded for it to be taken away from the strife-torn far north.