The Samyukta Kisan Morcha on Monday declared zero tolerance for incidents like the sexual assault that has come to light at the Tikri border protest site, calling it a test case for the ongoing farmers’ movement that has drawn wide participation from women.
The SKM, the farmers’ collective spearheading the movement, also took moral responsibility for its failure to set up an internal complaints committee that would have enabled the victim, who eventually died of Covid, to lodge a complaint.
Briefing journalists online along with the victim’s father, the SKM leadership denied allegations that it had not acted despite being aware of the incident.
The victim’s father backed the SKM’s contention, saying the delay in registering an FIR owed to his dilemma about how to go about it since his daughter’s last wish was to receive justice without the incident affecting the farmers’ movement.
Yogendra Yadav of the Jai Kisan Andolan said the victim had come in contact with members of the Kisan Social Army, a group that had set up a tent at Tikri but was not part of the SKM, when they visited Bengal as part of a campaign to get people to vote against the BJP.
An activist herself, she travelled to Delhi with the KSA members by train on April 11. She alleged she was assaulted on the way by two members of the group, Anil Malik and Anoop Singh.
She apparently mentioned it to a couple of friends but did not lodge a formal complaint. A week later she developed fever and was suspected to have Covid.
Yadav said the woman’s father — also an activist — contacted the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee leadership in Bengal, who then contacted Yadav.
“When my wife reached out to her on April 24 to speak to her in Bengali, she referred to the harassment but did not dwell on it,” Yadav said.
“The next day when we tried to contact her, we could not reach her at first. Upon contacting her father, we were told that she was being taken to a hospital.”
When they were able to establish contact with the victim, it became evident that she was being taken somewhere by Anil and Anoop who told Yadav they were taking her to Bengal on her father’s wishes.
“I asked the girl in Bengali to send me her location and realised that they were somewhere in Haryana. At this point, I instructed the two men to bring her back to Tikri, saying this was an order from the SKM leadership,” Yadav said.
“They complied and after that we were entirely focused on getting her proper treatment and hospitalisation.”
Backing Yadav’s account, the victim’s father said he had reached Delhi on April 29 and that it was only through a series of chats with his daughter that he realised she had been assaulted. She died the following day.
The SKM leadership met on May 3 and decided to stand with the victim, boycott the KSA and remove its tent from the protest site.
SKM leaders told the father that since he was in town it would be best if he lodged the police complaint, failing which the SKM would do so.
The father sought some time to make his mind up and filed the complaint on May 8 against Anil and Anoop with Bahadurgarh police station. The police added the names of four others, including two women.
The father has filed another statement with the police saying the names of the other four should be removed from the complaint as he did not want innocent people punished.
Asked about the interviews given by the two women – Kavita and Yogita – who have said they had alerted some of the SKM leaders about what had happened but to no avail, Yadav insisted that the central leadership was unaware of it.
“If this is the case, we will take action after conducting a probe.”
Anil and Anoop are in hiding. Asked why no action had been taken against the two after they had returned to Tikri with the victim, Yadav said: “At that point we were unaware of the assault and were entirely focused on getting her medical treatment which, as you are well aware, is difficult in the NCT (National Capital Territory) these days.”