National Commission for Scheduled Castes Chairman PL Punia tells Kunal Majumder that Rahul Gandhi’s allegations were true
The National Commission for Women (NCW) had concluded there were no rapes at Bhatta-Parsaul. But the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) now claims that incidents of rape took place.
I don’t know what the NCW did. We got a specific rape complaint with evidence. I asked Latha Priyakumar, who is a member of the NCSC, to investigate. She spoke to the women and found that the rape allegations are valid. On the basis of that, the NCSC sent a notice to the SSP of Gautam Budh Nagar district to register a case. There is a prima facie case that has to be registered and investigated.
Do you think that the Uttar Pradesh government will investigate or take action on the basis of your report?
If we get any complaint, we are duty bound under Article 338 to take cognisance of the matter and ensure justice to the victims. We took precautions to personally verify the claims of the victims. We sent a female member so that the victims could express their views freely and frankly.
The Mayawati government refuted and almost mocked Rahul Gandhi when he alleged that rapes had taken place. Will the government take your report seriously now?
I don’t function as a police station that instructs constables to catch hold of people. I go by proper procedure. When I receive complaints, we personally corroborate the allegations and we are duty bound to ask the authorities concerned to investigate the matter. I’ve not made any political issue out of it. If I wanted to gain political mileage, I would have asked the CBI to probe the incident. I simply asked the district police to register a case and investigate further. And that the investigation must be conducted by a female police officer, and no male officers should visit the victims’ houses. The victims are still living in terror. They say that male police officers harass and threaten them.
Are you saying that the UP Police is duty-bound to start a probe based on your findings?
Our member Priyakumar is supervising the probe. We have asked the SSP to file an FIR and investigate. He is personally supposed to submit the action taken report. According to the investigation they undertake and the action they take, the commission will take further action.
Many in the Opposition are suggesting that your findings were aimed at pleasing Rahul Gandhi.
No, I’ve not heard any Opposition party say that. I’ve not seen any report on this. It’s very simple. I’ve not made any political issue out of it. We acted because the allegations we received were backed by affidavits and personal corroborations. If we hadn’t done anything, you would have said that we don’t act on serious allegations. That will be unfortunate, because a constitutional authority has to act on the information received by it.
Did you find out why the cases were not reported earlier?
People in the entire area were living under constant terror. Male members had fled their homes. They made allegations against the sub-divisional magistrate. They made allegations that police officers visited the area and threatened them. It was a state of terror all around in Bhatta-Parsaul. So the people had not reported about these incidents.
Union minister Krishna Tirath had told the Rajya Sabha that there was no ‘confirmation’ of these rape charges. Are you suggesting that Parliament was misled?
I’m not aware of this and my functioning in the commission is not guided by what ministers say in the Rajya Sabha or the Lok Sabha. We function as per the mandate provided in the Constitution, under Article 338.
Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.