India's Rape Scandal

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Ramita Navai investigates rape, murder and political cover up in two shocking cases in India that have led to outrage and controversy.

Ramita Navai  investigate shocking rape cases in India — some of them drawing in politicians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — and allegations of cover-up, despite the fact that the government has vowed zero tolerance. Navai focuses on two cases in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

First, she explores the case of a teen girl who accused Kuldeep Singh Sengar, then a powerful BJP politician, of rape. “Her allegation is that she tried to get a complaint registered against Kuldeep Sengar, but his name was repeatedly dropped out of the charge sheet and the complaint,” says Aishwarya S. Iyer, a journalist for The Quint who has reported extensively on the case. (The state’s chief minister publicly rejected criticisms that Sengar had been protected.)

The girl did not give up — even after her father was killed, and then her lawyer and two aunts.“It’s incredible how strong-willed this woman is,” Iyer says. “To see death so close, to see your family being consumed by a complaint that you are raising and to still be at it .… It's a stunning, stunning story.”

Sengar is now in prison for the girl’s rape and his role in her father’s death, but still has a loyal following. The girl told FRONTLINE that she has been receiving death threats and is under 24/7 police protection.

Navai also investigates another alarming rape case in Uttar Pradesh that raised more allegations of political coverup. Nineteen-year-old Manisha Valmiki said she had been raped by four neighbors. She’d been strangled and her spinal cord was damaged. In their report, the police noted she had been violently assaulted but did not include her allegation of rape until eight days later, as media reporting gained pace — meaning crucial evidence went uncollected.

Doctors involved in Valmiki’s treatment told Navai that police and local officials asked them to downplay any evidence of rape. “The government, the party, is trying to squash this case because the men are from the same caste,” Valmiki’s cousin Niraj Kumar says. After Manisha eventually died, police cremated her body without the family’s consent: “We weren’t even allowed to look at her one last time,” Kumar says. And now, the trial of the four men alleged to have raped Manisha has been delayed by COVID.

One of India’s most respected and senior legal figures told Navai these cases should be a wake up call for more accountability when it comes to violence against women.“Why should anybody, you know, remain silent when something like this happens? You know, they should speak out. It doesn't matter who the perpetrator is — the government, the state, the police machinery, everyone should come out in the open and say that this is wrong,” says Madan Lokur, a former judge on the country’s Supreme Court.

"Harrowing, unflinching… remorselessly lays out the size of the fight that women – and the men who care about them – have before them." The Guardian

"When it comes to unspeakable  callousness, nightmarish plotting and shock twists, real life is frequentlymore than a match for fiction...Horrendous but necessary viewing." The Financial Times

First Broadcast

July 27, 2021

Broadcaster

Credits

The correspondent is Ramita Navai. Produced, filmed and directed by Jess Kelly. The producers are Monika Ghosh, Swati Gupta and Riddhi Ja. Line Producer is Natalie Triebwasser. The film editor is Ella Newton. The executive producer for Quicksilver Media is Eamonn Matthews

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