Victims Fear Reprisals; Authorities Need to Map Relief and Rehabilitation Plan
(New York) – Indian  authorities should properly investigate all crimes, including allegations of sexual assault and gang rape during last month’s communal violence in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Human Rights Watch said today.
Authorities should also develop a plan for prompt relief, return or resettlement, and reparations for the riot-displaced and create a secure environment for investigation and prosecution.
Reports of sexual assault have started to surface following the September communal violence in Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh that killed more than 50 people and displaced tens of thousands. Many, including girls, are still missing. So far, five criminal complaints of gang rape and two cases of sexual harassment have been registered by the local Uttar Pradesh police.
Indian activists who have visited riot-affected communities report that other Muslim women may have suffered sexual assault, including rape, but have not registered criminal complaints because of the fear of reprisals, stigma, and a lack of faith in state institutions. They are therefore unable to access crucial services including psychosocial counseling, legal aid, emergency medical care, and reproductive health services responsive to the effects of sexual violence.
“The Uttar Pradesh government needs to urgently create an environment for victims to come forward and seek justice,” said Meenakshi Ganguly , South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Rape victims in communal violence take time to find the confidence to come forward, leaving them without crucial psychological, medical, and other support.”
The September 7 outbreak of communal violence between Hindu and Muslim communities occurred in Muzaffarnagar and spread to surrounding districts of Uttar Pradesh state after a violent altercation that killed two Hindus and a Muslim. The incident, however, sparked rumors of threatened Muslim violence. Hindus from the Jat community, incited by inflammatory speeches from political leaders in a massive gathering, started attacking Muslim communities.
The violence lasted three days, a curfew was imposed, and the Indian army was deployed to restore law and order. By then thousands of Muslims had fled their homes and many are still housed in makeshift relief camps.