Lucknow, Oct. 1: Five women from a Muzaffarnagar village have stepped forward to report that they were gang-raped during the riots that have left 48 people dead and 40,000 homeless.
The first official complaint was filed on September 29, three weeks after the violence, although muted reports were trickling out earlier from the violence-wracked villages.
Two women from Fugana, 39km west of Muzaffarnagar town, submitted a written complaint yesterday saying they were assaulted on the night of September 7 by four men and that their homes were ransacked and set on fire. Three women from the same village had filed separate complaints on September 29 saying that eight men had gang-raped them on the night of September 8, police said here today.
“All five complaints were converted into FIRs and the police are investigating them,” the inspector-general, law and order, R.K. Viswakarma, said.
Seventeen people have been picked up for interrogation.
Of the five victims, two are teenagers and the other three are between 35 and 40, sources said. All of them have undergone medical tests.
The three who complained on September 29 were taken to the Women’s Medical College the same evening under heavy police security. Dr Mridula Agarwal, the medical superintendent, told journalists in Muzaffarnagar that their report was sent to the police yesterday. The reports of the women who filed the complaint yesterday are not ready yet, she said.
“All the five complaints, under investigation, have now been handed over to the Special Investigation Team set up for riot probe,” senior superintendent of police H.N. Singh said in Muzaffarnagar, confirming the police had received the first set of medical reports.
The riots broke out in the sugarcane-rich Jat heartland after three men died in clashes on August 27 and two were killed on August 29 in neighbouring villages. The violence was brought under control on September 14.
A team of 20 rights activists from Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow led by Magsasay Award winner Sandeep Pandey visited the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar twice, on September 21 and September 24. The team included two doctors, who suspected signs of sexual assault on some women.
Arundhati Dhuru, a member of the team, said: “We got enough indication that they suffered sexual assault but we were helpless because they were reluctant to go to police at that stage. It is heartening that these women have mustered the courage to go to the police now.”
Zarina Usmani, chairperson of the state women’s commission, said a fact-finding team of the women’s commission would visit the villages in a couple of days for a comprehensive survey.