Monday, 30th October 2017

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‘Death threat’ to Unnao victim kin

The 22-year-old victim was allegedly set on fire before dawn on Thursday for refusing to withdraw a police complaint

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 7.12.19, 3:12 AM
  • Updated 7.12.19, 3:12 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
The Unnao rape survivor, who was set on fire, arrives at Safdarjung Hospital after the state government arranged an air ambulance from Lucknow, in Delhi, Thursday, December 5, 2019. (PTI)

Relatives of the men accused of gang-raping and burning alive a woman in Unnao have allegedly threatened to kill her family and their blacksmith caste brethren in Hindu Nagar village if they don’t withdraw their complaint.

“Close relatives of Shubham Trivedi, son of village panchayat chief Savitri Devi, and his cousin Shivam visited us this morning and said my nephew, the victim’s elder brother, must change his statement to say his sister had attempted suicide,” the 22-year-old victim’s aunt told reporters on Friday. “They said they would otherwise torch our workshop, burn our entire family alive and kill every member of our caste in the village.”

She added: “I told a police officer stationed in our village about the threat but he laughed it off.”

Shivam and Shubham, accused of gang-raping the woman last December, had along with their fathers and a friend allegedly set her on fire before dawn on Thursday for refusing to withdraw the complaint. She was attacked 500 metres outside Hindu Nagar while travelling to catch a train to Rae Bareli to meet her lawyer.

Eyewitnesses said she had run back to the village, still aflame, crying for help. She spotted a man who was up early, borrowed his mobile to call the police emergency number and passed out.

Dr D.S. Negi, director of Civil Hospital, Lucknow, where the woman was first taken on Thursday, said she had 90 per cent burns. She was flown to Delhi, where she was on ventilator at Safdarjung Hospital. On Friday night, PTI quoted sources as saying she had passed away.

Caste divide

The woman’s uncle said that about 60 per cent of the village’s residents were Brahmin, 10 per cent were from other upper castes, and 30 per cent were Dalits and OBCs.

He said the Brahmins had gradually been forcing the lower-caste families out of the village through blackmail.

“There are at least a dozen instances of Brahmin youths from our village luring the daughters of poor people with false promises of marriage. The men film the women’s sexual exploitation and blackmail their parents to sell their land to the Brahmins and leave the village to protect their honour,” the uncle, member of one of the village’s two OBC blacksmith families, said.

“Shivam had taken my niece to a temple in Rae Bareli in the last week of December 2018, promising to marry her. There, he and Shubham locked her in a rented house and gang-raped her for days. They tried to blackmail us with a video.”

A source said the caste polarisation in Hindu Nagar was so deep that the Brahmins held a meeting on Friday and decided to set up a fund for legal help to the accused. “We have proof that Shivam and Shubham were sleeping at home when the incident took place. We will hire the best lawyers of the country to prove their innocence,” a villager quoted Savitri Devi as saying at the meeting.

Police pat

Shortly before the aunt complained about the fresh threats to the family and the alleged police inaction, Uttar Pradesh police chief Om Prakash Singh had praised his force’s handling of the case.

“We must consider it a success that we arrested three of the (torching) accused within minutes of the incident and the remaining two within hours,” he said.

Singh claimed the woman “had never demanded police security” although her family says they had complained to the police in November about the cousins’ threats to kill them if the gang-rape complaint wasn’t withdrawn.

Shivam, his father Ram Kishore Trivedi, Shubham, his father Harishankar Trivedi and Umesh Bajpai, another affluent villager, are the accused in the torching case.

The police had registered a gang-rape case against the cousins on the directions of a local court three months after the alleged incident. Shivam was arrested only in September this year and granted bail in November. Shubham was never arrested before Thursday.