Dalit girl's gangrape has hung for 11 yrs on an MLA's note
Parimal Dabhi Posted online: Thursday , Dec 31, 2009 at 0848 hrs
AHMEDABAD/VADODARA : She was a minor; her alleged assaulter a man with
clout. The police initially turned her away; while a decade later, her
case is still on in courts. And while Ruchika Girhotra's tragic story
may have got the nation's and government's ear, no one remembers the
then 13-year-old Dalit girl who was allegedly gangraped on the night
of the Dhuleti festival, a day after Holi, in a Vadodara village by an
MLA's relative and a friend of his.
In the 11 years since, the case is still at a stage where the
witnesses are to be examined. Her grandfather has had to sell most of
his land in the court battle, while the girl herself is now married to
a local youth and has two children.
As for Khumansinh Chauhan, on whose official letterhead a handwritten
note was sent to the police sub-inspector concerned over the case (a
copy of which is with The Indian Express), he continues to be the
Congress MLA from Savli.
On the night of March 13, 1998, the girl from Mokshi village was
reportedly abducted fom her home by Ramesh Baria and his friend,
gangraped and found abandoned and bleeding near the village pond the
next morning. Her grandfather Vashram Vankar had just stepped out,
leaving her alone (her parents having split, she was being raised by
"We took her to the police outpost, but they told us to go to the
Bhadarva Police Station. The Bhadarva police did not register a case,
and told us to take her to hospital for medical examination," Vankar
At the SSG Hospital, the doctors initially thought that the girl, who
was in deep shock, was mentally challenged, and referred her to the
Vadodara Hospital for Mental Health. The doctors there realised she
had been raped and sent her back. A medical examination confirmed
It took four days for the police to register a complaint. "When the
police kept delaying, we met the then Vadodara Superintendent of
Police, but he accused us of making up the case to extort money," says
The police finally relented after Vankar moved the Gujarat High Court.
The family believes the note on Chauhan's letterhead that was
hand-delivered to the Bhadarva Police Station on March 14, 1998, even
before the grandfather had reached there with the rape complaint, was
behind the police delay.
The letter, signed by Chauhan, says the person delivering it was known
to him: "Virendra B Solanki is from Mokshi. He is a personal supporter
of mine, I had introduced him to you earlier too. His is the issue
concerning the rape case. I know this issue. So, it is my
recommendation that you too understand the issue as he will tell you,
and do the needful."
Chauhan claims his letterhead may have been "misused" by someone and
that he doesn't know anybody by the name of Ramesh Baria. "I routinely
give many recommendation letters, but I don't recall giving any such
letter," he told The Indian Express. "I would never do that, not in a
serious case like rape."
Valjibhai Patel, secretary of the Council for Social Justice, which
took up the issue, says Chauhan isn't telling the truth. "Baria was
definitely a relative on his maternal side," he says.
The police were just the first stumbling block. At every stage, the
Vankars met delay, callousness and apathy:
* Police take a month to submit a chargesheet before the local
Sessions Court, on April 25, 1998, naming Baria and accomplice Ramesh
* A year later, on April 14, 1999, the Additional Sessions Judge
refers the case to the Lok Adalat, deciding that the gangrape of a
minor was a fit case to try for an amicable "compromise". The girl's
family doesn't agree.
* Eight more years would pass, until May 30, 2007, before the court,
which had by then completed the entire trial proceedings, would
realise that proper procedure was not followed in submitting the
chargesheet and that it was submitted directly to the Sessions Court
instead of the court of the Judicial First Class Magistrate (JFMC),
which could have committed it to the Sessions Court. The case papers
were sent back to the Investigating Officer, who was told to submit
those to the JFMC court.
* Police would take five months, till October 9, 2007, to submit the
case to the Magistrate.
* As things stand, the Sessions Court is to conduct "further hearing"
in the case on January 23, 2010.
Says former Gujarat High Court judge Justice S M Soni: "A case so
serious as rape cannot go to the Lok Adalat. The court should not have
done that. As for sending it back to the Investigating Officer after
the trial was almost over, the court could have found some way to
rectify the error instead of following mere official formality."
Vashram Vankar, who is in his late 70s now, and the girl's maternal
uncle Suresh Vankar say they are determined to fight on. "We were
offered Rs 50,000 by relatives of the accused... We refused," says
"I wish someone understood our pain," adds the grandfather. "Our only
relief is she has settled down with a loving husband and in-laws, who
do not object to her appearing in court to fight for justice."
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