NEW DELHI -- Ghazala was at a sugarcane field with her young son in Uttar Pradesh's Lak, Shamli, when three Jat men allegedly took turns raping her on 8 September, 2013. It was the first day of the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar which would go on for three days and eventually kill over 60 people.
Weeks later, she would send a police complaint which would go unacknowledged. Police would later claim they never received a complaint. And it would be only four months later, on 18 February 2014, that an FIR in the alleged case of gangrape would be filed after the Muslim woman's lawyer would raise the issue in the Supreme Court.
"All three of them threatened me, saying, that if i did not do what they asked, they would kill my son... they took turns to rape me...," she told police in her FIR. "After they left, I took my son to a tube well, washed my private parts, hands and legs. I gave some water to my son to drink because he had fainted."
Now, over three years since the alleged gangrape, the trial is yet to even begin. The three men, who were granted bail, are a constant source of threat to the woman, according to a new report filed by non-governmental organisation Amnesty International.
Ghazala is one of the seven women who came forward after the riots, alleging they were raped by men from the Jat community. While one of the women died last year, some have changed their testimony--allegedly due to threat and intimidation--while others are struggling to keep up the fight for justice even as they try to pick up their lives and make ends meet.
The Allahabad high court had granted bail to the men accused of raping Ghazala under the condition that they would not seek adjournments on days when witnesses were to give evidence. Yet, a timeline of the case shows repeated adjournments after one or more of the accused didn't show up in court.
"We are still scared when our men leave home." Dilnaz, one of the women who alleged she was gangraped.
According to the report, "The timeline of the reasons for court adjournments in Ghazala's case illustrates how repeated delays and adjournments, and an apparent lack of intent from prosecutors to expedite proceedings, can hinder the survivors' right to justice."
The Amnesty report is a damning indictment of how the police, courts, and state government have failed to bring to justice the men who allegedly raped these women in separate incidents during the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. Many of the women interviewed by the researchers claimed they were frequently intimidated and threatened directly or indirectly by these men, and had even been forced to withdraw their complaint after fearing for their lives.
"We are still scared when our men leave home," Dilnaz, one of the women who had alleged she was gangraped, told Amnesty researchers in July last year. The men accused of raping her were acquitted in February last year after she changed her statement in court. Her husband claimed that this was because they feared for their lives. Hers is the only case where the trial has ended.
Fatima, another of the complainants, told police in 2014 that she had been asked to withdraw the case against two of the four men who allegedly gangraped her inside her house. If she failed to do this, they threatened to kill her and her family members, she alleged. In exchange of withdrawing the case, she was allegedly offered ₹15 lakh from the accused. That is three times the amount the state government had given her as compensation, after being rapped by the apex court.
The threats haven't stopped even now, she claimed. "Indirectly they send people to ask if we are willing to settle the case by taking some money. We decline their offers," she told Amnesty International last month.
The combination of repeated adjournments and alleged intimidation worked in Chaman's case, according to the Amnesty report. Even after she and her husband filed several police complaints after receiving death threats in 2013 and 2014, the trial in her case only began in 2015, and after more adjournments, she finally told court she could not identify the men who raped her.
The Amnesty report reveals flaws in police investigation, as well as the state government's lacklustre response towards helping the gangrape survivors rebuild their lives. One of the survivors, Bando, told Amnesty, "What did the government do? Give us 500,000 rupees. Is someone's honour sold for 500,000 rupees? I have to spend plenty of money in commuting to and from the court when I am called. What can a poor person do?"
(All names have been changed to protect the identity of the women.)
Also On HuffPost: