Punjab: Shehnaz, Another Brave Girl Goes Down Fighting

December 29, 2014

By Lakhwinder

[This is a statement received about the recent case of rape and murder of a 17-tear old in Dhandari Kalan of Ludhiana – Ed.]

Shehnaz, a student of 12th class and a brave daughter of her poor parents died fighting the gang of seven goons who forcibly entered her house on December 4 and set her ablaze. She was kidnapped, raped and then murdered by the goons, blessed with political patronage. Burned to 90%, she fought the battle against death for four days, before finally leaving us on December 8. Hearing her story sends the chills down the spine. While going for school on October 25, she was kidnapped by the goons who then raped her for two days. She was released at the midnight of October 27. When she, along with her parents went to the police station to lodge a complaint, she was made to run from one police station to another. The police asked for bribe just for filing the report. After much hassle, F.I.R was written on October 29th, but without the rape charges. Despite repeated requests by Shehnaz and her parents, the police did not get her medical done and delayed it for a week. The chances of rape confirmation are significantly reduced after a week. Their lawyer was bargained for and cunningly Shehnaz’s statement before the Judge was taken down as an attempt to rape. She could never realize what the difference that this word ‘attempt’ in her statement would make.

Though the FIR was lodged against four of the gang but three were arrested. The remaining goons remained free to roam about threatening Shehnaz and her family to take back the case. On 31st October, while Shehnaz was alone at home, the goons entered her house and beat her savagely after her mouth being stuffed with cloth. The three arrested culprits, accused of rape and kidnapping, were also released on bail after spending 15 days in jail. Shehnaz’s family was being given life threats to withdraw the case, but they refused. They went to the police, the administration, even writing to Prime Minister Modi for help. Various political parties were also reached out for help but no one answered. On December 4, when parents were in court for case hearing, the gang took advantage of this and they entered the house, poured kerosene over her and set her ablaze. Before her breathing her last on 8th, she uttered the words – Mother! I want justice!

Even after 4th December, the response of police-administration was very slack and suspicious. After the fire incident, Shehnaz’s parents took her on a bike to the Focal Point police station. The policemen there refused to listen and to offer any help. Parents had to carry her to the government hospital on the bike itself. Giving her statement in the hospital before the Judge, Shehnaz named the 7 responsible (The total accused in the kidnapping and rape case are 8) for the firing incident. Facing public disgrace and fearing people’s outrage, the police arrested 4 goons, rest remained at large. Government offered no help for the medical treatment.

When the whole system, from administration to political parties, was shamelessly taking sides with the goondas, various worker-student-youth organizations came to the help of Shehnaz and with the help of local people started the struggle to get the justice. Then after Shehnaz’s death on 8th, a large no. of people under the leadership of above mentioned organizations staged a powerful protest. Police and the government pimps, communal-nationalist politicians and other leaders associated with various electoral parties tried to derail the people’s struggle from the very beginning. They tried to stigmatize the worker’s leaders, calling them unsocial elements, terrorists etc. They tried to throw the blame on the victim’s parents itself. To this effect the leaders gave false statements in papers. But the people continued their struggle. After the protest-demonstration on 9th, 3 more goons were arrested.

Due to the social pressure these goons ( Binder, Anwar, Amarjeet, Niyaz, Balli, Shehzad, Babbu and Vicky are in jail ) have been arrested but will they be punished? To this there is no guarantee. The deputy CM and home minister of Punjab, Mr. Sukhbir Badal is trying to malign the victim and her family and shield the culprits of this heinous crime by giving baseless and insensitive statements about this case which has shook every sensitive person of the state. The corrupt Punjab Government wants to cover up its poor administration by giving a false color to the case. The government wants to rescue the murderers, criminal gangs and their patronizes, the various political leaders. These vicious moves of the corrupt-cruel ruling classes must not be successful. Shehnaz’s last wish – I want justice – must be fulfilled at any cost. On December 14 thousands of workers from Ludhiana, under the leadership of Struggle Committee, blocked the National Highway-1 for about 2-3 hours. That was a warning to the government and the police-administration that if they tried to protect the accused, the people will fight a tooth and nail struggle.

We must never forget the brutality meted out on Shehnaz and her resolute fight against the goons till the very end. She is the symbol of the struggle against injustice. She has set an example before all women. Many women and their families conceal the incidents of rape, kidnap, harassment etc. on account of social stigma, beating or an attack on life, hopelessness of any justice etc. But this bold family and their daughter Shehnaz did not follow this path. She did not sit as a defeatist, she struggled and fought and embraced death. This bold and courageous 16-year old girl has set a great example before all women, the oppressed, the poor, and all common people. To fight the tooth and nail struggle to get the culprits hanged can be our only true homage to her.

The crimes against the women are on the rise. Rape, murder, harassment, beating incidents, acid attacks, kidnapping etc. have created a really dangerous situation around us. The anti-women patriarchal mindset is making the victim out of women at every step. And especially these gangs, with political-police-administrative patronage behind their backs, continuously run blood on their hands. In every nook and street, in colonies, at school-college doorsteps, these groups terrorize the women. If we wish for the safety of women and the common people, we will have to collectively challenge these cruel rulers, corrupt political leaders and their protected gangs. Organized and militant struggle has to be fought. After all, for how long will we remain quiet?

All the oppressed women, youth, students, the workers, justice-loving intellectuals, heirs of the legacy of Bhagat-Sarabha-Gaddarites, will have to come forward and challenge the rulers and call out in one voice – NO TO THE CRIMINAL STATE! Justice loving youth, students, worker’s organizations – Naujwan Bharat Sabha, Punjab Students Union (Lalkar), Karkhana Mazdoor Union (Punjab), Textile-Hosiery Worker Union (Punjab) and Bigul Mazdoor Dasta – have formed ‘Struggle Committee against Dhandari rape and murder incident’ to wage a struggle for justice to Shehnaz. Let’s realize our duty and be part of this struggle. Its high time to decide for all of us, which side are you on?

[More news available here – Ed.]