Lakhimpur Kheri rape case | Dalit family mourns daughters, demands death penalty

Lakhimpur Kheri rape case | Dalit family mourns daughters, demands death penalty

Family has lost everything, say locals in Tamoli Purwa village of Lakhimpur Kheri

Family has lost everything, say locals in Tamoli Purwa village of Lakhimpur Kheri

 Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh is once again making national headlines for the wrong reasons after the bodies of two teenage Dalit sisters were found hanging from a tree under the Nighasan police station area on Wednesday. The victims’ family has now demanded capital punishment for the accused of raping the girls before killing them.

The brutal killing sparked wide-scale outrage and a war of words with all the Opposition parties in the State targeting the BJP-led government for failure on the law-and-order front.

Six persons, including a local villager, Chotu Gautam, and five others from neighbouring Lalpur village named Suhail, Hafizul Rehman, Junaid, Karimuddin, and Arif have been arrested on charges of rape and murder. The postmortem, conducted late on September 14 at the Lakhimpur Kheri District Hospital, revealed the girls had faced sexual violence before being murdered.

Also read | Women’s security cannot be expected from those facilitating release of rapists: Rahul Gandhi after murder of Dalit sisters in Lakhimpur Kheri

The Hindu visited the victims’ village Tamoli Purwa to get insights into the gruesome incident. “Give death sentence to the culprits,” said Maya Devi, the mother of the girls. The mother had filed the complaint on which the FIR was registered by the police at the Nighasan police station on Wednesday.

The content of the FIR accessed by  The Hindu reads, “Three unknown boys came with Chotu (son of Chetram), from our village to my house and started manhandling my daughters. When I opposed (them) one of them kicked me and forcefully took my daughters on the bike and fled. After searching for many hours, the bodies of my daughters were found hanging from a tree on a farm of Ajay Singh. The petitioner fully believes that the two teenage girls were raped before being murdered.” The FIR has been registered under sections 302 (murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (criminal house trespass), 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, and sections 3 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Lakhimpur 4 - Lakhimpur Kheri rape case | Dalit family mourns daughters, demands death penalty

The mother of the girls who were allegedly raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, on September 14, 2022.
| Photo Credit: Mayank Kumar

The last rites of the girls aged 15 and 17 were performed in a field near their home, after the District Administration gave assurance to their family members about all kinds of support and financial compensation from the U.P. government. The victims’ family was earlier reluctant to perform the last rites before their demands got fulfilled. Later on Thursday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath instructed officials to provide compensation of ₹25 lakh, a house, and farming land to the victims’ family.

Speaking with  The Hindu, Uttam Kumar, elder brother of the girls, said, “We want death sentence for the six persons at the earliest and bulldozer to ruin their houses.” The younger girl was studying at the nearby Z.P. Inter College. When asked how the girls were helping the family, Uttam, 20, who works at a private factory in the Anand Vihar area of Delhi, replied, “Since my mother’s Uterus operation, both of them were taking care of the family and helping in whatever way possible,”.

Uttam has been working in New Delhi for three years to help the family financially as the only earning member before him has been their father, Rampal, who works as a labourer and does farming in the one  bigha field inherent by the family. The Dalit family lives in a two-room house that is not fully constructed and is connected by a raw village road to the State highway. After the incident, a few police personnel have been deployed by the District Administration outside the house to maintain law and order.

Locals angered over the incident

There is a lot of anger among the local villagers after the incident. “What has happened is very disturbing, the culprits must be hanged. The victims’ family has lost everything,” said one local, Ramesh. 

The house of the accused, Chotu, who, according to the police, had introduced the girls to three other accused, is hardly 50 meters from the victim’s place. “My husband is innocent and has been falsely implicated in the case. He was at a function organised by our relative around the time incident happened,” Sarojni, the wife of Chotu, told  The Hindu. When asked if they had any conflict with the victim family, she replied, “I don’t know why my husband has been framed in the case, we don’t have any animosity with anyone.” Sarojni married Chotu six years ago. 

Opposition continues to slam Yogi Adityanath government over women’s safety

A number of political leaders visited the victim family on Friday, including a Congress delegation led by its leader in the State Assembly and MLA from Rampur Khas, Aradhna Mishra, who demanded strict action against the culprits and requested the U.P. government to raise the financial compensation to ₹1 crore. Local BJP legislator Shashank Verma also visited the grief-stricken family.

Also read | BJP-RSS trying to give communal colour to Lakhimpur Kheri rape and murder case, says Congress

Other top Opposition leaders in the State have taken potshots at the Yogi Adityanath-led dispensation, alleging that the gruesome incident showcases the State government’s failure. Former U.P. CM and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said, “Under the BJP rule, caste oppression is forcing Dalit families to migrate. The truth is that the lives of innocents are completely unsafe under the BJP government and criminal elements are fearless. People are suffering from this situation. The BJP’s claim that Uttar Pradesh has become crime-free is absolutely hollow when the truth is exactly the opposite. The reality is that anarchy is rampant in Uttar Pradesh under the BJP rule,”.

Lakhimpur Kheri district, located roughly 140 kilometres from the State capital Lucknow, has been in news in the past few years due to many cases of crime against women. In August 2020, a case of rape and murder of minor girls aged below four years was reported from the district.