//Women groups up in arms over `gang rape'

Women groups up in arms over `gang rape'

Alleged assault on Aanganwadi worker sounds like a repeat of Bhanwari Devi over a decade back
JAIPUR: Women’s organizations in Rajasthan are up in arms against the alleged gang rape of a Sahayogini, an Aanganwadi worker with the Women and Child Development Department of the Rajasthan Government by her seniors during a training programme in Karauli district in December last. The 25-year-old victim, a Meena woman, is presently undergoing psychiatric treatment after the trauma inflicted by the gang rape.

The case sounds like an unfortunate repeat of Bhanwari Devi, a Saathin who was allegedly raped by the villagers in Bassi teshil over a decade back while working for the Women and Child Development Programme. "Sahayogini" is the new nomenclature for "Saathin".

The woman’s husband, Ramniwas Meena, in his complaint has said that three supervisors, abetted by another female supervisor, committed rape on the night of December 30, 2005 in a room at the training centre in Karauli, a district town, some 150 kms from here. Mr. Meena came to know about the incident a few days later only as the victim was admitted to a hospital after a mental breakdown.

While the police administration in the State is at pains to explain that the matter was reported to the Karauli police only on January 17, 2006, the members of the victim’s community and the social activists allege indifference on the part of the administration in registering an FIR. They have accused the Women and Child Welfare Department, police and the authorities at the local Government hospital of attempting cover up the issue and also of trying to brand the victim as a "mental case". The police registered a formal case on January 19 and arrested two accused named in the FIR — Daya Saraswat and Lokesh Gupta — on January 21.The police said in a statement here that attempts were being made to identify the two other accused not named in the FIR. Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria paid a visit to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital here on Tuesday to meet the victim. He promised a probe into the incident.

National Commission for Women chairperson Girija Vyas, who visited the hospital on Wednesday, has instituted an enquiry into the case, which is fast turning into a contentious issue among various caste groups. The conflict among the caste groups is due to the fact that the alleged victim is a tribal and at least two of the accused belong to the Mahajan caste.

Members of the activists’ groups –Rajasthan University Women’s Association, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, All India Democratic Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, Vishka, All India Progressive Women’s Association, Women’s Rehabilitation Group, to name a few — who met here on Wednesday expressed concern over the incident.

"It is all the more shocking as it happened with a Sahayogini during training. There are about 1.5 lakh such women working on a honorarium basis in the State and this leaves a big question mark on their safety," Kavita Srivastava, general secretary, PUCL, Rajasthan observed.

The activist groups, which expressed their resentment over the attitude of the Government, will be sending a team to Karauli to enquire into the case. They have sought action against the Station House Officer of Kothwali in Karauli who initially had refused to register the FIR on the complaint and the Superintendent of Police, Karauli and the doctors of Government hospitals in Karauli and Hindaun for attempting to brand the victim as "psychiatric case".