Correspondent Ramita Navai investigates two shocking rape cases in India — part of a wave of such cases that have drawn in politicians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and been accompanied by allegations of cover-ups, despite the fact that the government has vowed zero tolerance.
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First, she explores the case of a teen girl who accused Kuldeep Singh Sengar, then a powerful BJP politician, of rape.
“Her allegation is that she tried to get a complaint registered against Kuldeep Sengar, but his name was repeatedly dropped out of the charge sheet and the complaint,” says Aishwarya S. Iyer, a journalist for The Quint who has reported extensively on the case. (The state’s chief minister publicly rejected criticisms that Sengar had been protected.)
The girl did not give up — even after her father was killed, and then her lawyer and two aunts. Sengar is now in prison for the girl’s rape and his role in her father’s death, but still has a loyal following.
Navai also investigates another alarming rape case in Uttar Pradesh that raised more allegations of political coverup. Nineteen-year-old Manisha Valmiki said she had been raped by four neighbors. She’d been strangled and her spinal cord was damaged. In their report, the police noted she had been violently assaulted but did not include her allegation of rape until eight days later, as media reporting gained pace — meaning crucial evidence went uncollected.
Doctors involved in Manisha’s treatment told FRONTLINE that police and local officials asked them to downplay any evidence of rape. After Manisha eventually died, police cremated her body without the family’s consent. And now, the trial of the four men alleged to have raped Manisha has been delayed by COVID.
One of India’s most respected and senior legal figures told Navai these cases should be a wake-up call for more accountability concerning violence against women.
“Why should anybody, you know, remain silent when something like this happens?” Madan Lokur, a former judge on the country’s supreme court, says in the documentary. “You know, they should speak out. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator is — the government, the state, the police machinery, everyone should come out in the open and say that this is wrong.”
With Navai as correspondent, “India’s Rape Scandal” is produced, filmed and directed by Jess Kelly and produced by Monika Ghosh, Swati Gupta and Riddhi Jha.
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