The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 23 , 2014
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Rape finger at minister on TV

The girl who has accused Nihalchand of rape

New Delhi, July 22: Face hidden by a dupatta, the 20-year-old sat fidgeting as television cameras rolled around her.

But not for a moment did the school dropout from the boondocks of Haryana lose her composure while voicing charges of rape against Union minister Nihalchand Meghwal, who denies the allegation.

She had arrived in Delhi today, ready to face a national audience and hoping to gain an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I wish women in rural India spoke up against rape and sexual harassment. This systemic silence has to stop,” she said in Hindi, wide-eyed and articulate.

The young woman from Sirsa district says she was 16 in 2010 when she was pulled out of Class XII and married off to Om Prakash Godara, “who claimed to be a property dealer”.

Within two months, she alleges, Godara took her to Jaipur where she was repeatedly drugged and raped in hotels and rented rooms by men he brought to her.

One of them was Nihalchand, she claims, saying she identified him as one of the guests at her wedding from the groom’s side. The current minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers was then a youth BJP leader.

“Cameras were fitted across the rooms. The footage was later used for blackmail. I was drugged, so I couldn’t move my limbs,” she said.

“My body didn’t know what was happening to me but my mind knew that what was happening was wrong.”

She said when she confronted her husband “with bruises all over my body, he said I was his ‘property’ and he could do whatever he wanted with me”.

In 2011, she filed a police complaint against her husband and 17 others, including Nihalchand. The police closed the case in December 2012 citing lack of evidence.

The case sprang back to life last month when the Jaipur court hearing her revision plea asked Nihalchand and the other accused to appear on August 20.

Nine months after her marriage, the woman had gone back to Haryana where lives alternately with her parents and her maternal uncle and aunt, who have accompanied her to Delhi. A group of women’s organisations have put them up.

While the woman believes that none of the accused has been arrested because a minister’s name is involved, she adds that her plight is typical of rape victims in rural India.

“I have proof of what he did to me. I can pick each one of the accused from a line-up,” she claimed, demanding a CBI probe.

“There are CDs to show he (Godara) filmed me. I had shown (Rajasthan) cops the places where he had installed the cameras.”

She had an appeal for all parents: check the background of the person you are marrying your daughter to. She said she was married off just 10 days after Godara’s proposal to her family.

“My husband had a previous wife who apparently went through the same ordeal. If my parents had enquired enough, I would have been saved.”

The first wife has secured a “panchayat divorce”. She apparently refused to join the second wife’s battle.

“If one woman keeps quiet, many more suffer,” the complainant said. “I request parents to encourage their daughters to fight violence, not ask them to shut up.”