Rape victim's agony lost in caste politics

Almost a year back, the gang–rape of Sheelu, a minor, by a ruling BSP legislator in Banda town had triggered a nationwide outrage and leaders of  every political party, including Rahul Gandhi, rushed to the girl’s village to promise all help.

The alleged culprit Purshottam Naresh Dwivedi has been languishing in jail for the past one year and the CBI is probing the alleged gang–rape.

However, a year later, everything appears as usual in Banda, where no political outfit likes to even talk about Sheelu, let alone discuss her plight. The reason, the constituency is going to the polls on Sunday.

The girl, who is from the backward community of Nishad, seems to have become a victim of the caste equations here as political outfits fear that raking up the issue at this juncture could cost them the votes.

The Nishad community member is less in Banda to attract the contestants towards them or the issues that affect them. The main accused, Purshottam Naresh Dwivedi, is a Brahmin, a community very strong in the town and could make or mar the electoral fate of a candidate.

“Though Brahmins did not like Dwivedi, now he has sympathy of the community…the state government did not act against its minister Daddu Prasad when a backward community girl Kamala Kushwaha accused him of raping her but it acted quickly in Sheelu case,” says Kaushal Tewari, a resident of the town.

Tewari explains the silence in detail. “No one will take the risk of alienating the Brahmins by targeting Dwivedi,” he says even though he feels that Dwivedi may have committed the crime.

The BJP, BSP and Samajwadi Party are also silent as they all have fielded Brahmin candidates from Banda in the hope of getting their votes and any criticism of Dwivedi is fraught with risk.

The CBI which is probing the case has sought additional time to complete the investigation.

The girl was raped by the MLA and when she protested, he had her sent to a jail in a fake theft case. Sheelu had told the police that the MLA’s wife had helped her to escape from his house.

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