(Sonal Mehrotra is Senior Correspondent, NDTV 24X7
My New Year started with the news of yet another brutal rape from the now infamous Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. So my cameraperson and I travelled back there just six months after this western part of the state snatched the world's attention and headlines when it was reported that two teen girls who were cousins had been found hanging from a mango tree.
This time, the victim was a 14-year-old girl, who was gang-raped allegedly by two constables in their official police quarters. When I visited the crime scene with my cameraman, we were shocked to see that the police quarters were built inside the police station compound. In fact, 'Room No. 3', which had been sealed since, was bang opposite the residence of the Station Officer. How could an area home to police officers turn into a zone of brutality?
According to the mother, the girl was picked up from fields in a car in the night on New Year's Eve, driven to the police station eight km away, taken to the constables' room, and raped by them in turn. Later, she was dropped back to her house.
I caught a glimpse of the survivor at the Badaun hospital as she was being taken for her medical examination. Her face veiled, she was surrounded by a dozen female constables and photographers who took pictures of her. As she had already given her statement to the police, I didn't have the heart to ask her questions, making her relive the tragedy once again.
For now, let's ignore the facts that the FIR was registered an entire 24 hours after the crime only after a senior cop intervened, that the medical examination was conducted a full two days later, and that several reports alleged that the relatives of the two suspects - one of whom has now been arrested - cleaned up the crime scene and forged the duty records to reflect he was off duty.
What can't be ignored is what followed.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's office tweeted on January 3 and sent all the right signals by dispatching senior officers from Lucknow to investigate the case and announcing compensation of Rs 5lakh for the teen's family.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>घटना में जिम्मेदार, कार्यवाही में कोताही बरतने वाले पुलिसकर्मियों/अधिकारियों के विरुद्ध सख्त कार्रवाई करने के निर्देश <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UPCM?src=hash">#UPCM</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Akhileshyadav?src=hash">#Akhileshyadav</a></p>— CM Office, GoUP (@CMOfficeUP) <a href="https://twitter.com/CMOfficeUP/status/551398271835316224">January 3, 2015</a></blockquote>
What actually happened to these measures is a deeply disturbing tale of how police and politicians operate in UP's sarkar raj, and perhaps, also a reason why crime continues to flourish here.
The Additional Director General, Crime of UP Police, HC Awasthi, had been sent from Lucknow with a cheque of five lakh rupees. The cheque was to be presented to the victim's mother by a local politician of the Samajwadi Party.
Meanwhile, the Badaun District Magistrate's office was dressed up for a press interaction. Senior police officers and Banwari Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party came and sat there, exchanging pleasantries and chatting with the local media.
After the mother - a woman in her 40s with her face hidden beneath a ghunghat - arrived, the District Magistate made a speech and invited netaji to give her the money. The politician's face lit up. Smiling broadly, he sprung up to present the cheque. The woman kept weeping, saying "paisa nahi chahiye sahab, nyaye chahiye" ("I don't need money, sir. I want justice").
But local councillor Yadav, still smiling, responded in Hindi: "The Chief Minister has sent 5 lakhs especially for you. He is so great and kind that he sent the money immediately. Now, hold it and look at the camera." He forced the mother to flash the cheque towards the waiting cameras, and then offered this priceless gem: "God will get you justice. Don't cry."
That wasn't it, though. We were later told that the cop sent by the Chief Minister to supervise investigations would give us a soundbite and update us on the progress made in the case. As we lined up, the second-most senior policeman in UP started his statement by naming the rape survivor's parents. Oblivious of the blunder he had committed, he continued with the rest of his update. Later, when I got a chance of confront him for violating the law, he fumed at me, pushed the camera aside and slammed the door of his car in my face, claiming he had done "no wrong."
Agitated, angry, hurt and downright powerless. That's how I felt on my way back from Badaun.
One of the two accused constables, Avneesh Yadav, continues to be on the run. The other cop was arrested on Sunday from Safai. He is understood to have gone there to find refuge with a Yadav politician.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this blog are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing on the blog do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.