Skip to main content

Tribal woman cop's death: How Gujarat police sought to interpret clear case of sexual abuse as suicide

By Our Representative
The Nirbhaya case helped bring incidents of violence against women sharply into focus, but large number of women activists are starting to wonder why, if the victim is from a vulnerable community, she rarely draws attention. The death of a lady tribal police constable from Rajpipla in Gujarat Vasanti Vasava on November 24 under mysterious circumstances is being cited as an example which should have drawn as attention on lines with UP's Badaun gang rape of May 2014. There is little knowledge in general public about this gruesome incident, even in Gujarat. In in Rajpipla, a small town in South Gujarat in tribal dominated district, Narmada, things changed only after the Gujarat Women Rights Council, a recently floated group by a well-known Dalit rights activist of Navsarjan Trust, Ahmedabad, Manjula Pradeep, took up the death of Vasanti as a case of sexual assault and murder when the police was frantically trying to project it as a “simple case of suicide”.
Pradeep was busy in Vadodara district with her month-long campaign on violence against women, which had begun on November 25, declared by the UN as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign was to continue till December 10. Around 50 activists, led by her, were moving addressing women in one village after another. On November 26 late night, news trickled about the death of Vasanti, 28, which, Pradeep was told by Rajpipla municipality chief Mahesh Vasava, was sought to be projected as death due to suicide by hanging with a thick nylon thread tied to the ceiling fan.
Manjula Pradeep negotiating with cops
Vasanti’s body was discovered on November 26 evening from her room in the Rajpipla police quarters. The police kept the family members, who called it a murder following sexual assault, at bay. It changed it into a “probable murder case” only after activists, with the help of tribals, staged protests at the police station. Even then, the police kept quoting a suicide note allegedly written by Vasanti which said, “I am committing suicide as per my own wish and no one is responsible for my death. Please do not perform any medical tests on my body after my death. This is my last wish.” The note in Gujarati has Vasanti’s “signature” in English.
The family members said the handwriting was not Vasanti’s and the note was fake, but cops wouldn't listen. All this was made known on November 27, when Pradeep and her team reached Rajpipla, headquarters of Narmada district, where the incident had taken.
While Vasanti’s brother Raghuvir Vasava was in a state of shock, other family members complained to her that they were not being heard. A young boy who has just completed his 12th, Mahesh later told Pradeep that Vasanti would often tell her about sexual abuse by head constable, Vijaysinh Deepsinh, the accused, and would weep profusely, not knowing what to do. Backed by activists, the family members of the victim refused to perform the last rites. Tribals took out rally in Rajpipla demanding immediate arrest of the accused.
With the district magistrate’s order in hand, which said that there should be a complete videography of the post mortem, and that it should be performed in the presence of a lady doctor, the activists demanded that they wanted the body’s post mortem be done at Vadodara’s SSG Hospital, which had forensic test facility. Backed by protesters in Rajpipla, they succeeded, and the body was moved to Vadodara.
Rally in memory of Vasanti in Rajpipla
The victim’s family members kept arguing that the police was trying to shield the accused, who worked in the same police station for nearly a decade, and was privy to many a “secret" of several top brasses of the police department in Narmada district. Meanwhile, the accused “disappeared” from Rajpipla.
Pradeep and other activists began negotiating with the police over the need to arrest the accused if the last rites were to be performed, even as tribals continued their protest. They insisted that the anti-atrocities law should be part of the FIR, as the accused belonged to a dominant caste, to which the police finally agreed.
Narmada deputy SP Manoharsinh Jadeja gave it in writing to the family members of the victim that Vijaysinh would be arrested “within three days”, enabling the last rites to take place on November 29 amidst a gathering of several hundred people. On activists' demand, the body was buried, instead of being cremated, as they said it might be needed in case more investigation was necessary.
On December 1, 2014, at around 4 pm, almost five days after the first FIR was registered, the the Narmada police arrested the accused from the outskirts of Ahmedabad. He was brought to Rajpipla and was put in police remand for four days. Meanwhile, a silent rally was taken out on December 2 in Rajpipla to condole the death of Vasanti. Armed police was present in large numbers fearing law-and-order problem “on orders from Gandhinagar”, to quote the police, but things did not turn violent.
“We believe in peaceful methods and adopt legal means to ensure justice to the victims”, Pradeep told the police officials, adding, “All this would not have happened had you not goofed up by rushing to declare it as a case of suicide.”

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Rejoinder: Worldwide anxiety post-Fukishima is fading, slowly and steadily

By Dr KS Parthasarathy* 
EAS Sarma, former Secretary, Government of India (GoI) in a letter addressed to the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), GoI, stated that, there has been "worldwide anxiety about the consequences of catastrophic nuclear accidents, either due to manual lapses or natural calamities" (Counterview, December 2, 2018). "In the recent years, globally, the pace of growth of nuclear power has escalated in leaps and bounds, causing a great deal of public concern and apprehension."

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).