Raped, married & dumped at 15: Justice eludes mother-baby 

Gazala, 16, as per her school certificate, was born on January 1, 2002. But her court statement claims she is 19 whereas the hospital discharge slip when she delivered a baby, says she is 25


Ashutosh Sharma

Gazala was hardly 15 in March, 2017 when she was allegedly raped by a 24-year-old relative in Naka Manjahri village near the Line of Control in Poonch, which counts amongst the most backward districts of the country.

When she became pregnant, her poor family didn’t approach the police. It just wanted to escape the “social stigma” usually associated with such happenings in India. After intervention by some local residents and relatives, the girl was married off to her rapist on November 20, 2017.

The marriage, however, didn’t work out. Just after 15 days, she was thrown out of her husband’s home. This time, the victim’s family filed a complaint with the local police station and, accordingly, an FIR under Section 376 and 109 of Jammu and Kashmir’s criminal law, Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), was registered at police station Gursai in Mendhar tehsil on January 6.

Eventually, the local police got the victim’s statement recorded before the local court under Section 164 A of CrPc on January 16. She testified that “she was mature and living a happy married life with her husband and the complaint filed by her maternal uncle was false and she wanted no further legal action against her matrimonial family.”

“I was told that if I give statement in favour of my husband and his family members, they will accept me and my soon-to-be-born baby,” said a worried  Gazala, adding ruefully that “a few days later, when I gave birth to a baby boy at a Mendhar hospital (on January 25), neither the father of my baby nor anyone from my in-laws’ family were present in the hospital. Since then I have been living with my parents.”

After the local police closed her case on June 29, 2018 as “not admitted”, which means that the rape incident did not take place at all, she filed a case of domestic violence and sought maintenance in the district court in March. However, the accused moved the Jammu wing of the State High Court and got a stay order.

“People even care for the puppies but here they are not even bothered about the human baby,” lamented Gazala’s father, Sukhrez Khan, fighting back tears. The family lives in a kutcha house and is barely able to make ends meet. “I am too poor to afford the services of an advocate to fight the case in High Court, which is about 250 kms from my home. I am a small farmer. My son is speech and hearing impaired whereas my second daughter is a minor,” he rued, narrating how justice eludes the poor and the powerless in remote hilly areas, which usually remain out of the government’s focus.

Gazala, according to her school certificate, was born on January 1, 2002 which means she is 16. But the statement recorded by the police under Section 164 A CrPc in the local court claims that she is 19-year-old. The discharge slip issued by sub district hospital Mendhar after she delivered the baby claims that she is 25.

SSP Poonch, Rajiv Pandey, meanwhile, ordered a reinvestigation of the case on July 12, urging SHO concerned to thoroughly probe the matter under the supervision of SDPO Mendhar. “I’ll make sure that the girl gets justice without much delay,” SSP told National Herald

Incidentally, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed some of the worst sexual crimes against girl children this year. Earlier in January, an eight-year-old nomadic girl was kidnapped, drugged and gangraped for a week before she was brutally murdered in Kathua. Earlier this month, in Uri tehsil of Baramulla district another heart-numbing case surfaced. A step-mother had a nine-year-old girl gangraped, eyes gouged out and her lifeless body burnt with acid after she was axed to death.

Following national hue and cry over the Kathua rape case, Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill on rape punishment in August.  In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, under the amended law, the minimum punishment for the convict was increased from 10 to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment. Additionally, there is no longer any provision for anticipatory bail in the case of rape of a girl below 16. The new act also provides for investigation of rape cases within two months from the registration of an FIR.

Despite a stronger law, however, the ground reality arguably remains the same. Gazala’s maternal uncle, Mohammad Shafait—who runs a small shop in the adjoining village, claimed that the local police had taken bribe from the accused persons and were shielding them. “Police haven’t arrested any of the accused person so far. The father of the accused is also a retired police personnel and is using his influence. When he evicted my niece, he told us that wealth can get anything done in India,” he alleged, demanding that there should be an immediate DNA test of the victim, her baby and the accused to establish the paternity of the baby.

Shafait also accused the local police of demanding bribe from him, saying that “a sub-inspector at the local police station has been demanding money from us. He has already taken ₹4000 from us, saying that the amount is required for purchasing papers and meeting other expenses during the course of investigation.”

SSP Poonch, Rajiv Pandey, meanwhile, ordered a reinvestigation of the case on July 12, urging SHO concerned to thoroughly probe the matter under the supervision of SDPO Mendhar. “I’ll make sure that the girl gets justice without much delay,” SSP told National Herald.

(The name of the victim has been changed in the story to conceal her identity)

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines