The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rape victim cries justice

Patna, Aug. 20: Najma Khatoon delivered a baby boy on August 6. Now, she wants a surname for the child.

That can happen only when the father is found. “I would have killed him had I got hold of him now,” Najma says.

Najma, a murder accused, was raped allegedly by a constable while in police custody at the Sasaram Sadar hospital.

It was too late for abortion when the district administration put her through an ultrasonography early this year to confirm pregnancy. She had petitioned Sasaram jail authorities for help.

Her ordeal started a year after she landed in the jail in December 2001 along with her husband, Nizamuddin Ansari. The couple from a village near Rohtas district was accused of murdering Zahira, another wife of Ansari.

Ansari was thrown into the general cell and Najma in the women’s. “Ever since I was dumped in the ward full of lunatics and cranky women, I lost my sleep and began to feel disoriented,” she said.

She was shifted to the Sasaram hospital after her condition worsened late last year. As an undertrial, Najma was lodged in a separate room in the women’s ward with a constable on guard.

“At night when I was given heavy sedatives, the constable took the opportunity to pounce on me. I had no means to resist him,” she alleged. “I think I can identify him. For he would rape me even when I was feeling better. I had to stay in the hospital for more than a month.”

Human rights organisations such as the People’s Union for Civil Liberties have blamed the jail authorities for not posting a woman constable.

The incident found mention in the Assembly in March when leader of the Opposition Sushil Modi said women prisoners in Bihar have no security.

After the incident came up again in the House this month following an attack on Najma by fellow inmates, jail minister Ashoke Chowdhary said: “We have taken a serious view of the incident (Najma’s rape) and the case has been transferred to the CID for a probe.”

Earlier, an FIR had been lodged at Sasaram on the basis of Najma’s petition.

The CID, however, is yet to make any arrest. “It is not difficult to identify the man (who was) in charge of her security. But the silence of the police is puzzling,” rights activist Kishori Das said.

The state women’s commission chairperson, Manju Prakash, is worried about the progress of the investigation. Calling for an expeditious end to the case, Prakash said: “She appears to be more sinned against than sinning.”

Nizamuddin, too, has ditched his wife. He divorced her and disowned the child, saying he was not living with Najma for more than a year.

Najma has taken the blow stoically. “Any man would do that,” she said.

Picking up the child from the crib in the maternity ward of the Patna Medical College — where she was shifted from Sasaram – she vowed to hunt down the baby’s father. “Magar mujhe unko dhundke nikalna hai, is bachche ke khatir”(I must find him, at least for the sake of this child),” she said.

But before that, she has approached the National Human Rights Commission in Delhi and petitioned the state’s women’s commission through non-government organisations.

“All I want is that the boy be allowed to use his father’s name. I will identify the man one day,” Najma said.

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