The world consists of 50% of women and there we talk about women empowerment. With half of the population being in control, women are not in minority then why is empowerment needed only for women?
Women not only in India but throughout the globe have been suppressed for ages. With time the conditions of women have changed but this fact is only partially true for countries like India. Here women are still considered below men despite challenging them in almost every field. Practices like honor killing, dowry, genital mutilation, rape, domestic violence, and child marriages are still a symbol of the ill condition of women in the nation.
The horrific Nirbhaya rape case of 2012 gained the most coverage, but it isn’t the only one in our history that has perplexed the nature of the crime.
In 1992, the serial rape and blackmail of local girls in Ajmer was one of India’s biggest cases of coerced sexual exploitation.
The case was so horrific and well planned that it is often compared to Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal. The blackmail operation was discovered to be led by the chain of serial offenders. The most scandalous crime in India took place in Ajmer, Rajasthan, where hundreds of local girls were involved in the scandal. Some were from college while others still in school, in total hundreds of girls were targeted from the city by local gangs who blackmailed them. The victims were first photographed nude and then blackmailed for sex.
Most of the victims were from Ajmer’s Sophia Senior Secondary School. The scandal started with Farooq Chishtee who befriended a girl and lured her into the trap. After taking objectionable photographs he started blackmailing her. But she wasn’t the first victim of this notorious cycle. Though the scandal started with Farooq Chishtee, its foundation was laid way before. According to the sources, the basis of this sex scandal was a love affair between a ninth-grader girl and a boy from an affluent family. The friends of the boy took intimate photos of them together and blackmailed the girl for posing nude. From thereafter, she was threatened continuously and blackmailed to introduce the boys to her classmates.
The operation continued with these girls, as the boys tricked them into posing nude and then blackmailing them for sex. The gang members used victims as bait to bring more girls into the scandal. The girls would be eventually raped, sexually exploited by other gang members, and had their nude photographs taken. This way the gang expanded the chain and hundreds of girls from Ajmer fell prey to the crime. Because the group consists of private photographs of the girls, the victims never reported the crime. Most of this operation took place at a farmhouse in Ajmer.
A local newspaper, Navjyoti, first broke the news but according to the editor Deenbandhu Chaudhary, the police has known about the scandal almost a year before the story broke out. Because the main accused Farooq Chishtee was president of the Ajmer Youth Congress, he was able to halt the investigation. It wasn’t easy to publish the photographs in the newspaper and expose the racket however they decided to press forward with the story as it was the only way to spur local law enforcement into action.
As soon as the story broke out, it spread like a wildfire. Local people were angered and demonstrated it through a three-day bandh. A social stigma was formed around the girls of Ajmer and many prospective grooms were halting weddings to confirm whether the bride was a victim of the sex scandal. The boys would visit the offices of newspapers and ask if the girl they intended to marry was among the victims or not. Many people broke marriages in fear that the bride could be one among ‘them’. Such a situation was in favor of the accused as many victims turned hostile to secure their future and reputation.
Around 18 people were found accused in the case and they all belonged to the caretakers of the Sufi Shrine of Ajmer Sharif Dargah. Retired Rajasthan DGP Omendra Bhardwaj says that the social and financial upper hand of the accused stopped many victims from testifying against them, but another reality was that many of the young victims have already committed suicide. Thus, it was difficult for the authorities to summon all the accused. The case is still open.
Only thirty victims were identified in the investigations, only about a dozen filed cases, and ten backed out. Finally, only 2 victims pursued the case. Of the 18 accused who were charged with abduction and gang rape under the Indian Penal Code and Indecent Representation of Women (prohibition), one has since committed suicide. In 2013, the Rajasthan High Court upheld the decision though it reduced the period of the sentence from life imprisonment to the period already served by him.
To date, nobody wants to talk about the case as it was one of the biggest blots in our history and social ostracism blocked many victims from ever sharing the details of the horrific crime committed against them. Thus, this notorious sex scandal remains clouded in the pages of our history.