“It is very scary, something like this could happen to anyone,” Urmila Chauhan, a member of the civil-society collective Women Against State Repression and Sexual Violence, or WSS, said. She was among over seventy people from various students’ and women’s organisations, who staged a protest outside the office of Vijayanta Arya, the deputy commissioner of police for North West Delhi, on 26 October. The protest was in response to police’s failure to register a first-information report against a complaint alleging the rape and murder of a 17-year-old domestic worker at her employer’s house in the posh Model Town locality. “The women who do domestic work are among the most vulnerable in the country, if they don’t register a case now, it will set a very dangerous precedent,” Urmila added.
The 17-year-old resided in the nearby Gurmandi locality, situated at the edge of a drainage canal in the area. Most inhabitants of their locality are from Dalit and lower-caste communities and the teenager was from the Nishad community, which is considered an Extremely Backward Class in Uttar Pradesh and a backward class in Delhi. The 17-year-old had joined work on 25 September at the house of a senior citizen named Drupadi Bansal. On 4 October, within days of joining Bansal’s employment, the teenager called her foster mother Kusum to say that Drupadi had asked her asked to sleep in the driver’s room. “I don’t want to go there,” Kusum recalled her foster daughter had said. “Please take me with you, I don’t like it here.”
It was the last time they spoke. Just hours later, Kusum was summoned to the Bansal home, told over the phone that her foster daughter had locked herself up in a room. But when she reached, Kusum found the 17-year-old hanging from a ceiling fan in the driver’s room. Kusum accused the Bansal family and the driver of rape and murder. But the officials from the Model Town police station ruled the death a suicide without waiting for the results of the forensic examination, and then forced the family into a hurried cremation without letting them observe their funeral rituals. Three days after her death, the family members and Kusum’s neighbours protested outside the Bansals’ home to demand an FIR. They said the police responded by brutally beating and threatening them inside Model Town police station. The police denied all allegations of impropriety.
On 16 October, the family had protested outside the Model Town police station with student activists. Once again, the police detained the family and activists inside the station. They also detained me with the protesters as I was reporting from the site at the time. The police then brutally assaulted me and other student activists, led by the assistant commissioner of police, Ajay Kumar. Ten days later, on 26 October, family members, neighbours and student activists assembled outside yet another police building—the DCP’s office this time—to demand an FIR. None of them appeared undeterred by the previous police excesses.