Whats App Voyeurs Fail to Save a Health Worker’s Life

Published on: January 25, 2016
feels it is a priority to check communal violence as a result of inflammatory statements by Sadhvi Prachi (video available)
 
II. Response of health department and ASHA Union –
a)  ASHA groups are isolated from each other, but have great solidarity as the entire district came together for the memorial at their own cost. The team has recorded that there was organizational unity, fast mobilization and voluntary efforts of the ASHA workers to get justice for Somwati. They were able to reach out beyond their district borders, and even had planned to come together for a memorial meeting in the village on the 10th day of the death. They had very clear demands, and have plans to boycott all national programmes like immunization until their demands are met.
b)  They needed to put a lot of pressure and boycotted the national programmes like Pulse Polio before the CMO said he needed ten days to consider their demands. They had very clear demands from the government that included:
-Proper investigation into the case.
-They want strict punishment for the culprits (we suggested they avoid calling for hanging of the rapist
-They propose that the compensation money should be made in the name of the childrenü
-Life insurance
-Security when they accompany pregnant women at night;
-Transport to return or a place to stay at the hospital;
-Status of a formal worker;
-Permission to conduct delivery (willing to undergo special training)
c)The Team has noted the apathy and insensitive manner of dealing with the issue – no one from the district health department came in support for the dharna of the ASHA workers; they were very disappointed when there was no visit by CMO until the local MP (Union Minister) called up and asked him to come
d) After this incident, they report that other ASHA workers are receiving lewd phone calls from men; notably the minority community ASHA workers are feeling vulnerable in case of any backlash.

III. The Team’s suggestions for ASHA Mentoring group:
a)  JSY is a flagship programme and ASHA is the backbone of the community health outreach, but not enough thought has gone into support and back-up needed by the ASHA workers in terms of dealing with the fallout of their new social roles in rural areas, and community reactions to this.
b)  ASHA workers are meant to go out of their homes at all times of day or night but no support is provided to them in terms of a place/room/bed to wait at the hospital, or any transport to come back home
c)  Their phone numbers are public and they have to move and visit the homes of the families in their neighbourhood but this mobility is not supported by gender and empowerment interventions that prevent their exploitation and protect them in case of any unwanted attention /assault/Violence.
d)  The issues of violence against women, gender equality and human rights understandings of ASHA workers appears inadequate (they are asking for hanging or NSA) and we as feminist/human rights movements have not reached them yet.
e)  There needs to be more cross-country solidarity among ASHAs. They do not know about the payments/working conditions to ASHA works in other states
 
IV. Response of non-state actors –
a) It appears that all the men in the village had seen the video and enjoyed watching and sharing it, but no one came and expressed solidarity with the family or went with them to complain to the police in time before the death of Somwati. Only after she died the ex- Pradhan went with the husband to complain about the rape video. [We do not know if the video is still in circulation?]
b) The role of local Hindutva leaders like Sadhvi Prachi needs to be kept under a close watch. Polarization of communities along religious lines has been seen as an easy way to garner votes and the BJP is not shy to use this method. The speeches of Sadhvi Prachi need to be monitored and her openly anti-Muslim rhetoric needs to be checked. She is also advocating indirectly that people should take the law into their own hands and not wait for the government to take action or ensure justice.
 
[The team conducted a one-day visit on 16th January 2016 to the district and met the following people –
     People met                                                                                     Location
1.  Station House Officer and other policemen and women       Chhapaar Police Station
2.  Husband of Somwati, other family members
     including mother, sister, two younger children                         Chapra village
     Former Pradhan of village (Anil Kumar)  
     ​and several other villagers who came when we were visiting          
5.  Members of the ASHA sangathan of that district                     Muzaffarnagar District Hospital
5.  Senior Superintendent of Police                                                Muzaffarnagar, Camp Office
 
In addition, Ms. Jayashree Velankar visited the village again on  January 21, 2016 during the memorial meeting for the deceased ASHA worker]
 
 (The Report prepared by Gangotri and Pritisha (HRLN),Ruchi Bhargava (SAMA), Rehana Adib (ASTITVA/HWForum UP) and others Jayashree Velankar (NAMHHR),Jashodhara Dasgupta (SAHAYOG/ HW Forum UP; the groups responsible for the report are the National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights and Health Watch Forum, Uttar Pradesh)
 

Statements before the Team (Quotations) 
 1. According to ex-Pradhan, on the night of January 11, 2016, he got a call from villagers and he was informed that Somwati’s sex MMS was going viral on WhatsApp. He informed that the video was of 45 minutes and it was in three video files (15 minutes each.). Further he informed the team that he saw the video on the same night and he clearly saw the face of Shahid forcefully having physical relationship with her. He and few others present claimed that it was evident from the video clip that she was gang raped because he noticed someone else apart from Shahid in the video. They saw that someone was putting his foot on her chest, her salwar was torn, and her slippers and hand bag lay scattered in the field. He told the team that he planned to inform her husband on next day but unfortunately when he went to his house both husband and wife was not there. Later, he got the news that Somwati was found dead near the roadside. After that he along with her husband filed an FIR at Chappar police station.

2. The team was informed there is a ritual to pass on the responsibility of the family to the next person. Somwati’s 16 year old elder son, the team was told, will now be the head of the family. The team couldn’t resist thinking that this was some tacit admission that it was Somwati who had been indeed the ‘head’of the family.
 
3. The team was also told, …..“Also, there was no change of colour in the body and if someone consumes poison then the body color change. Somwati had made a promise to herself for the sake of the family to not to end her life and instead to fight for her dignity and justice. This was shocking for us also because we never thought that she will end her life in this way.”