In her debut book, No Nation for Women, the journalist Priyanka Dubey, formerly a staff writer at The Caravan, reports on incidents of sexual violence against women in India, and covers cases of custodial rape, caste atrocities and human trafficking. Dubey travelled across the country for over six years to bring attention to unreported incidents of rape that escaped public scrutiny, as well as revisit prominent cases and their surrounding circumstances. In the following excerpt, Dubey recalls visiting Uttar Pradesh to report on the custodial rape and murder of a 14-year-old teenager in the Nighasan police station, in the state’s Lakhimpur Kheri district, in 2011. The teenager’s mother recounts the day of her daughter’s death and the harrowing experience of discovering her dead body against a tree near the police station. When the mother refused to take the body home, she recalls, the police threatened her: “Jaise teri ladki ki laash giraayi hai waise hi teri bhi gira denge.” (We will kill you just like we have killed your daughter.)
I travel around 450 kilometres away from Delhi to reach the Nighasan police station area in the Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. Almost a 10-hour drive by road from Delhi, Lakhimpur Kheri is the largest district of Uttar Pradesh. Situated on the northern tip of the state, it shares one side of its border with Nepal. The highways were patchy in parts but smooth for the larger part of my road trip to Nighasan.
I stopped around 200 metres before the Nighasan police station and waited in the car. It was mid April 2015. The weather was humid and hot. But as you move towards Nepal, the burning sensation of the afternoon sun is a little less scathing.
After a couple of minutes, I could see 40-year-old Rabiya walking towards me. She was wearing an orange sari, her head and hair all covered with her pallu. We exchanged greetings and decided to have a detailed conversation at her house. But before that, she wanted to show me something.
We both started walking towards the Nighasan police station. A large part of the building was newly constructed and painted. As we entered, I saw a couple of policemen hanging around in the courtyard of the building. Rabiya did not looked up or greet any one of them. She kept looking down at her feet and walking ahead. I followed her. She took me to the backyard of the police station and raised her finger towards an old dilapidated building lying abandoned a few metres ahead of us in the backyard. There was an abandoned tractor lying next to this decaying, eerie building. And there were plants and greenery growing unchecked around the abandoned tractor as well as the ramshackle concrete structure.