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Silent no more: Unnao rape survivor's tough ride for justice but had faith

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Lucknow, Dec 20: The quest for justice for the Unnao rape survivor has been arduous. From police refusing to name the accused when the complaint was first filed to seeing her father tortured and killed, from her uncle being ensnared in an unrelated case to suffering an accident, which had clear marks of a conspiracy, the going was tough for her.

Over two years after she accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of raping her in his home in UP's Unnao, the local strongman was handed down the life imprisonment till the remainder of his life. Sengar was found guilty of abducting and raping the woman in 2017, then a minor. Sengar, who represents Bangarmau assembly seat in Unnao district, was jailed after he was arrested on April 13, 2018, and the BJP subsequently expelled him from the party.

File photo of Kuldeep Singh Sengar

Five days before the arrest, the victim had tried to set herself ablaze near Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's residence in Lucknow to protest alleged police inaction against the MLA. She also alleged her family had been threatened.

Sengar, however, denied all allegations.

Police said the woman's family had alleged that two youths from their village kidnapped her on June 11, 2017, and that a case was registered on June 20 that year.

Unnao rape case: Expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar gets life imprisonment

Based on her statement, three men were arrested for gangrape and offences under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act as the victim was 17 years old at that time. Police alleged her father and uncle were criminals - the father had 28 cases, including those of murder and robbery, against him, and the uncle had 15 cases, some filed as early as 1991. Subsequently, the woman said the MLA was a family friend and she and her siblings addressed him as "Bhaiyya".

On April 9, 2018, the day after the woman attempted to kill herself in Lucknow, her father died in judicial custody in Unnao jail, allegedly of injuries suffered in a brutal assault by supporters of the MLA six days before that. Four of Sengar's supporters were named in the FIR filed by the woman's family. The accused too filed an FIR against her father, who was booked under sections of the Arms Act and IPC.

The woman's family alleged that the MLA and his supporters had tried to frame her father. It subsequently emerged the woman's father had been arrested on the same day the incident took place, while the four aides of the MLA were arrested only after he died in jail.

The post-mortem examination of the woman's father found 14 injuries on the body. It identified septicaemia or blood poisoning as the cause of death. In the meantime, a video surfaced, showing the father alleging that the MLA's brother had beaten him in the presence of police. Six policemen were suspended and the following day (April 10, 2018) the MLA's brother, Atul Singh, was arrested.

A Special Investigation Team was formed on April 11, 2018, to probe the alleged rape. The same day, Sengar's wife Sangeeta met the UP DGP to plead for justice for her husband.

On April 12, 2018, police registered an FIR against Sengar under various sections of IPC and POCSO Act. On Allahabad High Court directions, the probe was handed over to CBI, which arrested Sengar.

On April 14, the probe agency arrested Shashi Singh, the woman who had allegedly lured the victim to Sengar's home on June 4, 2017, when she alleged she was raped.

In May 2018, CBI booked Sengar and others for conspiracy to implicate the victim's father in a false case and arrested two policemen. Sengar and Shashi were moved to Sitapur jail from Unnao.

Why Sengar's co-accused Shashi Singh acquitted? asks Unnao rape survivor's mother

On July 7, 2018, the CBI filed its first charge sheet against Atul Singh and four others in connection with the death of the woman's father.

On July 11, the CBI filed another charge sheet in the court of the Special Judicial Magistrate (CBI), Lucknow, accusing Sengar of committing rape and Shashi Singh of aiding him in the crime. They were charged under various IPC sections including conspiracy, kidnapping and rape and under the POCSO Act.

On July 14, a third charge sheet was filed against Sengar and nine others for allegedly hatching a conspiracy and implicating the woman's father in an Arms Act case. Five months after that, an FIR was filed against the victim, her mother, and uncle for allegedly forging documents submitted to police as proof the victim was a minor when she was raped.

In July 2019, the woman's uncle was convicted in a 19-year-old case of attempt to murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a district court. On July 28 this year, the victim and her lawyer were critically injured, and her two aunts were killed after their car collided with a truck in Rae Bareli. Police registered a murder case against Sengar after an uncle of the woman blamed him for the accident. The probe was taken up by CBI.

On October 11, after completing its investigation into the road accident, the CBI charged Sengar and an accomplice with criminal conspiracy and intimidating the rape survivor and her family, but dropped the charges under IPC sections related to murder and attempt to murder.

Two months later, a Delhi court convicted Sengar for rape under the IPC and the POCSO Act for offence by a public servant committing penetrative sexual assault against a child. The CBI sought life imprisonment for Sengar, saying it was "a fight for justice of an individual against the system".

On December 20, District Judge Dharmesh Sharma awarded life imprisonment to Sengar, who now appears all set to lose his membership of the state assembly.

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