Woman decides to fight elections in India after rape of her daughter

By David Asta Alares

Unnao, India, Feb 23 (EFE).- Asha Singh is contesting elections for the first time in her life against the injustice suffered by her family with the rape of one of her daughters by a parliamentarian in 2017 and the death of her husband in police custody.

The candidate of the iconic Congress Party in Unnao, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh – where people voted in the regional elections Wednesday – however, faces a mix of sympathy and skepticism from her neighbors.

“The injustice that has happened to us should not happen to anyone else, which is why we have come into politics,” Singh told EFE in almost a whisper in her house in Unnao, where she lives with her five children, while accompanied by some dozen members of the security forces.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) until he was expelled when the case came to light, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2019 for raping Singh’s then-teenage daughter when she went to his house looking for work.

After the incident became public, the victim’s father was arrested for allegedly carrying arms illegally and died in police custody as a result of a beating by Sengar’s sympathizers, according to a ruling by a New Delhi court that sentenced the former parliamentarian to 10 years in prison.

Wearing a scarf with the colors of the Congress Party and two pink bracelets with the inscription “I am a woman, I can fight,” the 55-year-old candidate is accompanied by her daughter, who covers her face with a blue scarf.

“I am the same Unnao rape victim who was raped by Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2017. I wandered for one year and my FIR (first information report) was not registered in Unnao. Then after that my father was killed. When I tried to burn myself outside the Chief Minister’s residence, then they filed my FIR,” the 20-year-old narrated.

The incident marked the family for good, and in 2019 the young woman’s uncle was locked up for a case of attempted murder from more than two decades ago.

“After the death of my father, my uncle was implicated in false cases by Kuldeep Sengar and sent to jail,” she said.

Singh’s current battle is “to obtain justice for all the daughters who have been wronged,” she added.

But in Unnao, where, like the rest of Uttar Pradesh, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are seen as the main contenders in the regional elections, the Congress party candidate seems to attract at most only sympathy, which is not likely to translate into votes.

“People may have sympathy for her, but I don’t because I don’t believe her story. Reality can be something else,” Neelam Gaur, a 40-year-old housewife from Unnao, told EFE.

Vikas Tiwari, sitting at one of the many tea stalls in the locality, told EFE that he did not consider Singh an appropriate candidate given the family’s allegedly violent past and the encarcelation of the victim’s uncle.

Priyanka Gandhi, granddaughter of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Congress’ elections in-charge for Uttar Pradesh, has reserved 40 percent of the candidatures from her party for women.

Gandhi claimed that women could bring about change and take the country forward.

Singh’s candidacy falls under this program, in a state that has reported a wave of brutal cases that captured the country’s attention.

In another case that also took place in Unnao in 2019, a group of men set fire on a rape victim when she was going to testify in court. She later succumbed to her burn injuries.

In 2020, the rape and subsequent death of a young girl from a lower caste, whose body was burned by the police shocked the country as it degenerated into a political circus.

But despite the emphasis on women, analysts and opinion polls believe that Congress stands no chance in India’s most populous state, with 200 million inhabitants. EFE

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