Family of Dalit girl faces threats in court, constant surveillance

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Then, just as Asha’s brother began to make his statement, a local lawyer, Tarun Hari Sharma, entered the courtroom.

“The moment he walked in he started yelling at me,” the brother said. “I could smell the alcohol on his breath.”

Kushwaha tried to tell Tarun to “back off” as he intimidated the brother and interrupted the hearing. However, Tarun was joined by his father Hari Sharma, also a lawyer, who also started yelling at Kushwaha and Asha’s brother, claiming it was an honor killing and not rape.

Other lawyers entered the courtroom and joined the Sharmas in insulting and threatening Kushwaha and Asha’s family.

“They started to aggressively come towards me and said I had to stay within my limits,” Kushwaha said. “They started to laugh and say, ‘Let’s see how you get to Hathras next time.’ Asha’s brother was to my left and I could see him shaking and very scared.

Judge BD Bharati then adjourned the hearing for lunch. “The judge himself seemed to be afraid of these men,” Asha’s brother said. “He kept crossing his hands in front of them and asked them to leave.”

But the intimidation continued when the tribunal convened after lunch, Kushwaha said. The Sharmas and their followers continued to intimidate Asha’s brother, preventing him from properly testifying. The judge noted a direct threat to life and asked the UP police to enter the courtroom and ensure the safety of the family.

At 5 p.m., Kushwaha said, the judge “dropped out” and adjourned the hearing. As she walked out of the courtroom with her associates, Tarun, Hari Sharma and a few others surrounded them, saying that Seema Kushwaha should “go back” and “stay within her limits”. The judge noticed and ordered UP police to escort Kushwaha and her team out of Hathras.

Laundry contacted lawyer Munna Singh Pundhir to ask him about the events of March 5. “Nothing happened,” he replied. “Seema and this girl’s family are dramatic just because they don’t want to make a statement. If they make a statement, it will become clear that this is an honor killing, not gang rape. “

Laundry could not reach Tarun Sharma, but his father Hari Sharma said Kushwaha was “creating a publicity stunt”.

“My son and I haven’t done anything wrong,” Hari said Laundry. “She is inventing all of this because she wants to become a national celebrity. Why did she not immediately apply for tatkal and have my son tested for health? That would have proven whether he was drunk or not, right? “

Talking to Laundry, Hari also reiterated that as a lawyer, Seema Kushwaha “must stay within her limits”.

But for Kushwaha, this is not the first time that she has been threatened in Asha’s case. In February, she wrote to the Home Office asking for security because she did not feel safe.

“For months now my husband and I have been receiving threats,” she said. “Surprisingly, many of these threats come from people who supported me during the Nirbhaya case but are now angry that I took over the case of a Dalit girl. “

Allahabad High Court takes note

On the day of the incident, Kushwaha told the judge she wanted to file a claim detailing what had happened and requested the courtroom CCTV footage. “The judge told me to let it go,” she said. “He refused to file my complaint and said, ‘Seemaji, these things happen. “”

Eleven days later, on March 16, Asha’s brother filed two petitions in the SC / ST court in Hathras. The first was a request by the family to be exempted from appearing in court until the security situation improves and for a closed-door trial. The second was a request for CCTV footage from March 5.

“The special tribunal did not accept any of these requests,” Kushwaha said. “Why?”

On March 18, Asha’s brother filed an affidavit with the Allahabad High Court detailing what happened on March 5 and requested a stay of proceedings in the special court in Hathras.

The next day, the Lucknow Chamber of the High Court heard the complaint and ordered District Court Judge Sunil Kumar Singh and Central Sector Inspector General, CRPF, to prepare a detailed report of what had happened and submit it. by April 3. Based on the report, the court said, the court would take an appeal as to whether the case should be transferred out of Hathras.

The court also ordered the SC / ST tribunal to conduct all hearings strictly behind closed doors. If anyone disrupted the proceedings or threatened Asha’s family or witnesses, the judiciary said, severe action would be taken.

The case was set for hearing on April 7. However, due to the Covid pandemic, the physical hearings were canceled and Kushwaha said the Hathras case was not scheduled for a virtual hearing. Meanwhile, on April 9, Judge BD Bharati was transferred out of Hathras; Kushwaha and a local lawyer said it was a “routine transfer”.

Importantly, Asha’s family have been asking for months that the case not only be transferred from Hathras, but also from Uttar Pradesh. In October, when they first made this request, India’s Chief Justice SA Bobde made his plea after the CBI completed the investigation. After the CBI completed its investigation in December, the family appealed again in February.

On March 12, eight days after Tarun Sharma and others threatened the family in court, the Supreme Court of the case.

“The Supreme Court was not aware of what happened on March 5,” Kushwaha said. “They had no reason to transfer the case; therefore, our appeal was dismissed.

Meanwhile, bail requests from three of the defendants – Ramu, Ravi and Luvkush – have been. On April 8, Munna Singh Pundhir again requested Ramu’s release on bail before the Allahabad High Court. The hearing is set for April 16.

Pundhir said Laundry: “One day, his family is afraid. The next day they are sick. Another day, they go to the tribunal de grande instance. Four innocent men are in jail and this family is watching out for justice.

Who is Tarun Sharma and why was he in the courtroom?

Kushwaha described Tarun Sharma and his father Hari Sharma as “gunda type” lawyers in Hathras. None of them have anything to do with Asha’s case.

A local lawyer in Hathras said Laundry on condition of anonymity, “If Tarun finds out that we have spoken against him, we will not be safe here,” adding that most of the local district attorneys “are not messing with Tarun and his father.” Another local lawyer said, “Tarun is a drunkard and a very violent man. “

Munna Singh Pundhir contradicted this statement, claiming that it is “impossible” for a lawyer to consume alcohol before 6 pm. He didn’t explain why.

Hari Sharma said Laundry that he was in the courtroom because Pundhir had asked him to advise the lawyers defending the accused. “My son was there on another matter,” he said. “He just made a little legal comment when Asha’s brother’s statement was heard and with that, Seema got very dramatic.”

According to Hari, her son consumes alcohol “but would never show up to court drunk”.

One of the local lawyers said Tarun was “accused in several cases”, including a triple murder case. “He and his father are known to be notorious here,” they said. “They even have the judges under their control.”

In 2008, Tarun Sharma was charged with. He was also charged under the Weapons Act and the UP Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities Act. Laundry he was told that he was eventually acquitted.

Ankur Gupta, a resident of Hathra, who is also Tarun Sharma’s neighbor, said Laundry that he filed two complaints against Sharma and her father. One is for attempted murder and the other is for robbery, criminal intimidation and assault.

“No lawyer in Hathras was willing to take our case because they are afraid of this man,” Gupta said. “So we had to transfer our case to the Aligarh District Court. “

In response, Hari Sharma said he and his son were “falsely” accused by Gupta. Regarding the triple murder case, he said Tarun was trapped in a “political gamble”, which is why he was acquitted in 2011 after spending around 10 months in prison.

“We are the victims, we are in prison”

“We don’t feel safe here. My sons cannot safely return to their old jobs, ”Asha’s father said. “We really need help.”

While the family received Rs 25 lakh from the state government after Asha’s death, they still did not receive a job or a house for the government because.

Asha’s brother said he had a question for the Chief Minister: “When the incident happened, he pretended he cared a lot for us. Why didn’t he visit us once? Maybe if he sees our condition, he could help us.

Lawyer Pundhir laughed at this, saying Laundry that the family leads a very “luxurious and relaxed” life. “Even if they want to buy vegetables, they have five or six men from the CRPF who take them in a big car,” he said. “What are they complaining about so much now?” They have enough money now, so why do they still want a house and a job? “

But Asha’s family is afraid. “Look at what happened in the Unnao rape case,” the brother said, referring to how the victim’s father was assaulted by a family member of the accused and. Asha’s father added, “We are only now. The family does not have the strength for another tragedy.

Asha’s mother said the family received a pot of ashes after Asha’s forced cremation. “We have decided that we will only perform his last rites after we have obtained justice,” she said. “Until then, we won’t even take her clothes out of her wardrobe.” “

Some names have been changed to protect identities.

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