Has the rise in number of rapes in Uttar Pradesh prompted chief minister Yogi Adityanath to simply go into denial mode? Knowing his style of functioning, one tends to believe that could be true. After all, denial alone became his escape route from the infamy he earned on account of the spate of deaths due to shortage of oxygen in the children's ward of BRD Medical College in his hometown, Gorakhpur in 2017.
If his denials about oxygen shortage could eventually help him sail through with the Gorakhpur deaths, why should he not adopt the same formula in case of rapes across the length and breadth of the country's most populous state?
The manner in which the state machinery has, of late, been going into denial mode over glaring incidents of gang rape reflects a lack of political will to admit the truth about the unabated rise in crimes against women in a state, whose saffron clad chief minister, proclaims to have established "Ram Rajya".
Not many months after the sensational Unnao gang rape followed by the brutal murder of the victim's father, involving notorious ruling BJP legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar, two recent incidents have rocked the state. In both cases, the authorities have left no stone unturned to deny rape precisely in the manner they did in the Unnao case until the Allahabaad High Court took suo motto cognisance of the matter compelling the government to hand over the case to the CBI, following which the MLA was put behind bars.
In one case, the body of a young polytechnic student was discovered after she went missing while on way from her institution to a railway station in Lucknow. "The forensic report rules out rape," asserted a top police official at a press conference. "It was a case of loot and murder," he went on to add.
The police hastily came out with their own theory. Here is how it goes: Three men jumped into the three-wheeler in which the woman was travelling. With the driver in connivance, they drove the woman to a lonely spot where she was murdered and her body abandoned near a mound of garbage.
The body of this 20-year-old student was found on the IIM road under Lucknow's Mandion police circle on June 22. It was only after 20 days that the police claimed to have worked out the case with the arrest of a youth who was stated to have confessed having waylaid the woman while she was on her way from Indira Nagar to Badshahnagar railway station from where she was to catch a train to her hometown, Ballia.
Lucknow senior superintendent of police Kalanidhi Naithani went on record to describe the "arrest" of the culprits as a huge "success". However, neither he nor his superiors were ready to explain why four professional robbers spotted a polytechnic student as their target for loot. How could they imagine that a middle-class woman student travelling in an auto would be loaded with cash or valuables?
Interestingly, the theory was built on the basis of a forensic report prepared by local officials whose entire focus was on denying rape.
A more recent case was that of a 30-year-old married woman who was allegedly gang-raped before being burnt alive in Sambhal town near Moradabad in western UP. In the beginning, the district police chief outrightly ruled out rape, while describing it as an outcome of "family enmity". It was only after media pressure and the victim's voice recording on the cellphone of her cousin went viral on social media that the Sambhal police were compelled to register a case of rape.
In the recording, the wailing woman went about saying, "meri beizzati ki gayi hai" (I have been outraged). When her cousin brother asked her to call 100, she said that she had tried but the helpline number did not respond. She even named the five men who had allegedly stormed into her house at midnight and gang-raped her in front of her 7-year-old daughter.
A day later, the Yogi government went to the extent of ordering suspension of the SSP — not because he denied rape but because he violated the Supreme Court ruling of naming the rape victim before TV cameras. The Yogi government was also not outraged by the fact that the cops did not even spare the already traumatised 7-year-old daughter of the victim. "We spoke to the daughter and even her statement does not corroborate rape," a top-ranking police officer told the media.
Shockingly, the entire focus of additional director general of police (Bareilly zone) Prem Prakash was on establishing anything but rape. "Neither the call log at 'Dial 100' helpline (based in Lucknow) showed any incoming call from the victim's phone nor the call log of her cellphone displayed any call having been made to the helpline," the ADG claimed.
"In fact, the accused were related to the woman and they also told the police that they had a lot of respect for her," he went on to add. He, however, had no answer to the million dollar question — "Why was the woman burnt alive if the idea was not to destroy all evidence?"
Earlier, the local cops tried their usual trick of raising questions over the woman's moral character while leaving no stone unturned to systematically spread the word that the woman was killed by her relatives because they were against her illicit relationship with someone. Incidentally, her husband works as a labourer in another town.
It was being widely alleged that ever since the government realised its failure to curb heinous crimes against women and with rapes in particular going on unabated, an unwritten diktat came from the highest political level to flatly deny rape at all costs.
Even the statistics provided at the state police headquarters were designed to somehow establish that rapes had actually come down. "The first six months of 2017 witnessed 2,224 rapes as compared to 2,074 during the first six months of 2018," declared a top official, claiming a fall in the number of rapes since Yogi Adityanath took the hot seat in March 2017.
Fact remains that the number of rapes rose from 3,419 in 2016 to 4,246 in 2017. Yet another comparison further substantiates that rapes have been on the rise in UP even when compared to what was perceived as a more lawless regime headed by Akhilesh Yadav.
The official crime chart shows there were as many as 3,704 rapes across UP in 10 months (between April 1, 2017, and January 31, 2018) against 2,943 rapes during the corresponding period in the preceding year (April 1, 2016, to January 1, 2017).
So don't be surprised to find the next case of murder after gang rape as being termed a "suicide".