Life has become a prolonged nightmare for Malad fashion designer and law student Kalpana Shukla, who is still paying a heavy price for blowing the whistle on drug peddlers in her area in 2009. Her expose was reciprocated by a violent backlash from the criminals, who molested her and brutally assaulted her. The police, instead of coming to her aid, lodged a criminal case against her, arrested her and even initiated proceedings against her.
Hope flickered in March this year, when the Bombay High Court ordered a departmental inquiry on officers who had lodged the false case against her. The court qualified the case as one that would ‘shock the conscience of any citizen’, and ‘lead to a loss of faith in police machinery’.
Months have passed since the court’s scathing remarks and the order for an inquiry, but Shukla is still waiting for justice. In an emotional interview with MiD DAY, the 32-year-old woman spoke of the anguish she has suffered — ever since she dared to speak the truth.
There is no progress in the matter even though the state CID recorded my statement against the errant police officers months ago. In fact, since the High Court judgement was passed in my favour, I have received threatening calls from the people I complained against. When I go to the police to register a complaint, they fob me off. The High Court had ordered a departmental inquiry against three officers — PSI Anant Abhang, PSI MH Chaudhari and PI Rameshwar Supale but so far, I don’t know what the status of the inquiry is.
After the attack, I had to take bed rest for six months. I suffered from many illnesses.
The attack took place just a week before my law exams, which threw all my studies into disarray and I lost a year. I have had to shave my head as my attackers pulled my hair so hard that long hair causes me continuous pain.
Before the attack, I had a flourishing business as a textile and fashion designer. After I was prescribed bed rest, my business failed. My workers all had to leave. Now I work with my father.
The Dindoshi police are hand-in-glove with the drug peddlers. When I approach the police for assistance, they tell me, ‘We guarantee no harm will come to you. Don’t agitate any more about this issue, why do you want to go after it again?’ This, despite the peddlers’ threats to parade me naked, as they had unsuccessfully attempted the last time.
The Crime Branch officers who are conducting the inquiry against Chaudhari, Supale and Abhang tell me, ‘You can keep running around, but such cases come to us all the time. There is no big deal, nothing will happen. Those officers are good people, there has been a misunderstanding.’ I am continuously afraid. They could kill me any time.
(Kalpana Shukla asked MiD DAY not to change her name or blur her face as she did not want to hide her identity)
DCP promises action
Two days ago, Shukla once again filed a non-cognisable complaint against her assaulters for allegedly threatening her. DCP Zone XII Pravin Patil said, “I am not aware of this case but I will meet Shukla tomorrow and if I find what she is saying is true, I will personally look into the matter.”
On May 11, 2009, Shukla had alerted the Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) that one Noorjahan Sayed Gani was involved in selling drugs in her area. On the basis of the information, the ANC raided Gani’s premises the next day.
On May 12, 2009, Noorjahan and her daughter Nasreen had threatened Shukla for having exposed him. She immediately lodged a complaint with the Dindoshi police.
On May 14, four men — Shiv Bahadur Singh, Dinbandhu Shiv Bahadur Singh and Ketan Shiv Bahadur Singh – brutally assaulted her with iron rods, punches and kicks. They also pulled her hair and slapped her repeatedly. Nasreen and Noorjahan and a woman identified as Asha Singh also joined in the assault. When woke up in Bhagwati Hospital where she had been brought by head constable Bhanudas Sawant, who incidentally did not report the matter to the police station.
When she approached police and enquired about the incident, she was shocked to learn that though a case had been registered against her assaulters, a false case had also been registered against her on charges of forgery. The police later initiated chapter proceedings against her, a procedure used against common criminals.
How witnesses are protected elsewhere in the world
United States of America
The US established a formal programme of witness protection, run by the US Marshal Service, under the Organised Crime Control Act. The service provides for the safety of government witnesses, and their immediate dependents. The US marshals have protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,300 witnesses and 9,800 of their family members, since the program began in 1971. Till date, no beneficiary of has been harmed while under such protection.
The UK government offers protection to witnesses and victims at various stages. The police keep their details private, protecting them from threats, offer them security when they have to go to court. They are also given protection if and when the criminals they testified against are released from prison. In some cases, they may be relocated to another area.
The New Zealand police run a Witness Protection Programme under which they monitor the welfare of witnesses, and if necessary they also help create new identities for them. As per the agreement between the police and the Department of Corrections, the witness receives adequate protection.