At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are dying in thousands across the country, the gruesome rape of an activist at Tikri border shook the conscience of the nation. The incident pertains to the death of a 25-year-old activist who was gang-raped in a camp at the Tikri border, once the focal point of farmers’ agitation.
First, let’s dissect the gruesome tale of the horrific gang rape of a 25-year old girl, who came from Bengal to participate in the protest at the Tikri border site. A 25-year-old girl, an artist and a designer, high on enthusiasm arrived at the border in mid-April but she reportedly died on April 30 under mysterious circumstances.
It would not have come to light if her father had not reached the Tikri border and reported the matter to the police. After the gruesome incident, an FIR was registered by her father on May 8 against six accused, some eight days after the incident. Those leaders privy to the incident chose not to inform the police and tried to hush up or sort out the matter themselves.
Leaders belonging to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) maintain that they wanted to investigate the incident on their own which’s why it got delayed. News reports from Haryana suggested that top leaders wanted to delay the process purposefully or solve the issue on their own. In the entire story, following the gang rape of the girl, the name of renowned activist and Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav also figured, who tried to sort out the matter at an organizational level.
Not only, Yogendra Yadav, many other leaders got wind of the actual story but did not inform the police. Why did they play the role of an arbiter when they should have informed the police to let them start the investigation at the earliest should be best answered by them? Law enforcing agencies and the court must take cognizance of the matter and take it to a logical end as there are a lot many unanswered questions that beg for a detailed answer.
According to the FIR, accused Anil Malik molested her on the train, as the victim told her father on phone on April 14. Later, she was again raped by the two accused Anil Malik and Anup Singh in the camp. On April 21, she developed fever and her condition further deteriorated but due to a high number of coronavirus cases she could not be admitted to PGI Rohtak.
She confided in farm leaders Yogita Suhag and Jagdish Brar and told them her side of the story; they, in turn, informed Yogendra Yadav on April 24. On April 25, she was admitted to a private hospital in Bahadurgarh after she was diagnosed COVID positive. Her father came to meet her on April 29 when she narrated her story in detail but she died a day later on April 30. Before dying, she told her father that Anil and Anup must be punished. Today, every countryman must ask what role senior farmer leaders played in the whole episode, who claim to be the flag-bearer of human rights.
Police should also look into the matter of whether office-bearers at the Tikri border wanted to pressurize the father of the victim in any manner so that he doesn’t file the FIR; if there is an iota of truth in this, it must be brought to the public forum. (Yogendra Yadav at a press conference on May 10 claimed that neither Samyukt Kisan Morcha nor he knew about the incident.)
Farmers are not ready to budge from their protest site, citing that they will not move unless their demands are met. When almost the entire country is under lockdown to curtail the burgeoning death figures due to the outbreak of coronavirus cases, farmers are sitting in groups. Farmers are holding the ground on the pretext that three farm laws will sound the death knell for the entire farming community.
The second coronavirus wave has caused deaths of thousands of people across the length and the breadth of the country without any exception, but National Capital Region has suffered majorly due to increasing COVID cases. The death of the girl-activist due to coronavirus goes on to prove that protest sites are not immune to viruses.
Meanwhile, the gang rape of a young girl and subsequently her death due to coronavirus will always haunt the leaders who sit on a high moral ground and preach the world from a high pedestal. What could have been face-saving for the office-bearers was to come out and apologize for what happened but they chose to defend themselves under the maze of excuses.
The future of farm agitation and continuation of protests notwithstanding, following the gang rape and subsequent death of the young activist, farm leaders must address women’s safety at the protest site, observe regular COVID testing with proper protocol and must light a candle and pray for the departed soul.