A lawmaker from India’s ruling party has been charged with raping a teenage girl, whose father was allegedly beaten to death when the family complained.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has charged Kuldeep Singh Sengar – an elected member of the Uttar Pradesh state legislative assembly – with rape, abduction, criminal conspiracy, criminal intimidation and rape of a minor under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act. He has denied all charges.
The girl, now 17, claims she was attacked by Sengar on June 4, 2017 when she was taken to his home on the pretext of getting a job. She says she was then repeatedly gang-raped over nine days at the property between June 11 and June 20.
According to court documents, police officers allegedly picked up the girl on June 20 and, as they drove her to the police station, repeatedly threatened violence against her father if she spoke out.
In April 2018, after the family filed a complaint, the girl’s father was allegedly assaulted and later died of his injuries. The CBI has also filed charges against five people for murder, rioting, voluntarily causing hurt, breaching peace, criminal intimidation in relation to the April incident.
The day before her father’s death, seeking to draw attention to her case, the girl attempted to set herself on fire outside the residence of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, but was stopped by passersby.
As well as being an elected representative in the state assembly, Sengar is also a member of the BJP, the party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The case prompted large demonstrations when details of the case emerged in April.
Protests had already broken out across India after the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Those demonstrations, some of the biggest since the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape, forced the Indian government to pass more stringent laws.
In April, the highest court in Uttar Pradesh said the “disturbing feature of the case is that the law and order machinery and the government officials were directly in league and under the influence of Kuldeep Singh Sengar.”
The BJP said it would take appropriate action at the end of the legal process.
“He is still an MLA (lawmaker) but under the law, the speaker (of the legislative assembly) will take a note of it. Whatever needs to be done, in due course, it will be done,” said Sidharth Nath Singh, BJP spokesman, Uttar Pradesh.
“The law has taken its own course and justice must be provided to the victim.”
A female aide to Sengar has also been arrested and charged with the same counts as Sengar. The CBI is also investigating the role that other individuals, including police officers may have played in the rape and intimidation of the girl.
India has been facing increasing pressure from the public to improve the safety of women in the country and to ensure speedy justice for victims of sexual assault and rape. In 2016, more than 55,000 cases for rape were registered in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
In April, India introduced a temporary law, which would award the death penalty in cases of rape of minors and in gang rapes.
Despite the introduction of harsher laws, rapes in India, especially against minors have been in the limelight the past few months. On June 6, 2018, a 15-year-old girl in the state of Bihar alleged she had been raped repeatedly by 19 people.
The complaint lists 16 classmates, the school principal and two teachers, who blackmailed and raped the girl over the course of six months.