Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Profile of Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)—a social science research centre, based in Delhi. Director of the Indic Studies Project based at CSDS aimed at the study of diverse faith traditions and cultures in the Indic civilisation. She is the ...

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    Madhu Purnima Kishwar’s Blog
    “I have a horror of all isms, especially those that attach themselves to proper names”.
    -- M. K. Gandhi --
    Posted on: 28.06.2014
    Bare Facts of Khursheed Anwar Case
    Who Circulated the DVD with Alleged Rape Victim's Testimony?
    First Published in :
    image
    Let me state at the outset that till 19 September 2013 I had never heard the name of ISD (Institute of Social Democracy) or its Director Khurshid Anwar. I am deeply saddened by his death and wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to his family. But since wild allegations have been made against me, I do need to put the record straight.
     
    The first time I heard Khursheed Anwar’s name and got to know of ISD was on 19 September 2013 when seven members including the alleged rape victim of recently formed NGO called Boond came to my office. 
    • I was persuaded to meet the alleged rape victim by Ahmer Khan, a member of ‘Boond’ and a Manushi volunteer. Ahmer had worked with Manushi for over two years before he decided to go to flood ravaged Uttarakhand as a ‘Boond’ volunteer-- a group he joined through the social media. Ahmer had phoned me on 18 September. He said that a young woman, volunteer of Boond team, who was incidentally a leading member of the anti-rape agitation, was completely devastated by the alleged brutal rape and worse she alleged to have suffered at the hand of the Khursheed Anwar

    • Since I had known Ahmer closely for the past two and a half years, and know him to be an extremely upright and caring young man, I agreed to meet the Boond team the next day. On 19 September around 5:30 pm, six members of the Boond team-- namely Ahmer Khan, Tapan Kumar, Nalin Mishra, Swati Mishra, Neeraj Hari Pandey and Nandan Tripathi along with the victim came to my office.  I asked them what kind of help they expected from me. They said they needed legal advice as well as a good lawyer to help the woman file an FIR.

    • As a general practice, I make it a point to video record the testimonies of all those who come to me for legal or other forms of intervention -- be it rickshaw pullers, street vendors, or victims domestic violence. This ensures that I get the facts of the case accurately. It also ensures that the victim has to take responsibility for her/his statement. I asked the victim if I could video record her testimony. She agreed without any attempt at persuasion on my part.

    • Along with the victim’s testimony, the video recording includes the testimonies of the rest of the group members who corroborated her statement with circumstantial evidence. Some of them were present at the dinner party hosted by Khurshid Anwar in which he allegedly laced the drinks of the victim with some drug. She alleged that the drug mixed in her drink was so strong that she completely passed out and could not even stand on her feet.The other members present at the dinner supported this version with several additional details. Swati said she had a narrow escape that night and could well have ended up in the same predicament.     

    • The victim said she even the next morning she was so sick, she could barely walk and  vomited several times even while being driven back to Ila Joshi’s flat.

    • What the victim had described was no ordinary rape. She alleged that the sheer brutality of the multiple acts had injured her private parts and left her in agony for days on end, so much so that she suffered terrible pain while passing urine and stool.

    • The victim said that she had been put under terrible pressure to hush up the matter and all the material evidence of the alleged rape had been deliberately destroyed by founder members of Boond. Therefore, she needed to consult with a lawyer whether she could still file an FIR.

    • I phoned a lawyer friend, Ashok Agarwal, and told him that this young woman would come and meet him the next day at his office and her case needed sensitive handling.

    • I assured the victim the following: A)  That I would give her an unedited copy of the video so that she had a record of what exactly she told me. B)   I would not make any use of the DVD;  that it was totally up to her to decide what to do with her testimony and corroborative evidence of her friends contained in that DVD. C) That I would only stand behind her and not take any initiative of my own that could prematurely precipitate matters for her. 

     

    • As promised to her I handed over a copy of the DVD the very next day to a member of the Boond team whom she had assigned the task of picking the DVD from my office on her behalf.

    • My lawyer friend told me that the young woman failed to show up on the appointed time and date. Ahmer told me that she could not reach the lawyer’s office because she was being pressured and emotionally blackmailed by the founder members of Boond not to file a case. Moreover, she was extremely worried about the likely impact of this incident, if publicised, on her ailing mother. She had admitted in her video recorded testimony that her family was going through severe financial crunch which was made worse by the illness of her mother and aunt.

    • I did nothing to pursue the matter and let the victim take her own decisions. I neither phoned her nor tried to contact her either by mail or any other means because I did not want to put the slightest amount of pressure on her. I am of the view that in such sensitive matters which involve considerable risk for the victim, all those who wish to support her must never jump ahead of her to precipitate matters. The victim has to be given freedom and time to assess her fighting and risk taking capacity.

    • Around 24 September Ahmer told  methat the victim had suddenly left for her home town on 23rd September because she was in acute distress. Again I made no attempt to contact her. I respected her desire to be left alone and informed the Boond team that I was not willing to take any step into the matter unless the girl took the initiative to file a complaint.

    • On 29 September 2013, Ahmer received 4 distress calls from the victim from her home town. Ahmer recorded all those phone conversations in which she tells Ahmer that her relatives were beating her up saying she should not have come back alive. The girl was crying hysterically in those calls. Ahmer made me hear those conversations to convey what kind of stress she was facing at home. Apparently, her mother was sympathetic but it took time for other relatives to stop blaming her and agree to stand by her.

    • During the intervening period Ahmer occasionally informed me how the Boond team had begun an internal discussion on social media on this case without naming Khurshid Anwar. I was also informed by Ahmer that Anwar and his friends had started maligning the victim saying the following contradictory things:

      a)First the charge of rape was blandly denied;
      b)Later it was alleged that it was a case of consensual sex;
      c)The most provocative insult was that the woman had made false charges to extort money.
       

    • This smear campaign apparently enraged the victim who was already in a very precarious state of mind and facing extremely hostile scenes at home in addition to the financial and health related problems in her family. This is what pushed her into seeking help of Boond volunteers to help her get justice.

    • Since I am not an active social media person, except on Twitter, I personally did not ever see the exchange between the young members of the Boond team and associates of the NGO who were defending Anwar.

    • I was also informed that some associates of Khursheed Anwar had actually hinted to Nalin saying they were willing to buy the girl’s silence by getting her paid her up to Rs. 20 lakhs.

    • Ahmer also told me that Khursheed Anwar himself revealed his identity on social media by a comment on Nalin Mishra’s Facebook page where there was a hot discussion on this alleged rape without naming the accused. Khursheed Anwar wrote on Nalin’s page: “you are talking about me. I am not absconding, I am right here.”

    • I am told by Boond team that Anwar’s close colleague Mayank Saksena had also revealed Anwar’s name saying he was being wrongly maligned.

    • Till then the young volunteers of Boond were discussing the issue without naming Anwar. Once he entered the fray in his own name the issue acquired a life of its own.

    • Later on I got to know that through the social media the matter had reached a Delhi university lecturer Dr Ashutosh and known activist of the anti-rape agitation Kavita Krishnan. Both these persons were sufficiently moved by what they heard to write to the Board members of the ISD to investigate the charges.

    • A letter dated 26 November written to the victim by six Board members of ISD--namely Mohammad Azhar, Purva Bhardwaj, Jayant Kumar, Kalyani Menon Sen, Juhi Jain, Sarita Chuahan--shows clearly that they found enough prima facie evidence to set up an internal inquiry. For the full text of the letter along with a photograph of the original letter. CLICK HERE

    • Following the internal inquiry, three board members of ISD -- namely Kalyani Menon Sen, Juhi Jain and Purva Bharadwaj--resigned from the Board in protest. I read about it in one of the English newspapers around 12th December.

    • I had at no point either contacted ISD board members or Kavita Krishnan or anyone else to press that this case be taken up. I stood by my thumb rule that unless the victim is personally present to demand my help I will not run ahead of the victim to take any initiative. The victim was still in her home town and was in touch with Boond volunteers who were apparently following up the case on her behalf.They had several conversations with her on telephone.

    • ISD Board members owed it to her to take initiative because the victim was a volunteer with that NGO and had alleged rape in the Director’s home. They had a legal and moral responsibility towards her. So their setting up the inquiry was within their legal jurisdiction. I had no such jurisdiction and therefore took no action on my own.

    • At some point the matter reached the National Women’s Commission which not only decided to take up the case and press for an FIR but also went public with the case through India TV. I had no role in this matter reaching the Women's Commission. 
    • Unknown to me India TV had already sent its team to the victim’s home along with the Boond team member Tapan Kumar to confirm the charges she had levelled against Khursheed Anwar. She spoke of her own volition to India TV team. I got to know of India TV interview only on the day it was telecast.
    • On 17th December I was asked by India TV to confirm why and how the victim had reached Manushi. That’s the first that anybody in media or elsewhere --outside the Boond team -- heard me talking about the Khurshid Anwar’s case. Till then I had not breathed a word about it to anyone, including my close colleagues. No one in my office had seen the DVD or heard about it. Other than giving the victim a copy of the DVD through her representative, I did not give or show the DVD to anyone. No one ever heard me talk about the case even in private conversations. The DVD appears to have been put into circulation by ISD Board members and Kavita Krishnan.  

    While I fully sympathize with the grieving family and friends of Khursheed Anwar, I appeal to them not to repeat the mistake that Khursheed Anwar made in attacking and defaming the victim.  It has already boomeranged and may produce worse outcomes. It is a very shoddy defence to say that he could have done no wrong and is being falsely implictaed because he was "anti Modi". This flimsy arguement has been so long abused by so many wrong doers, including Tarun Tejpal, that it makes people's blood boil. 

    Let us not pre judge either the victim or the accused. Let there be an honest investigation into this matter. Let the family and friends find out from ISD Board members how they assessed the woman's testimony.  Targeting me or the alleged victim will not get them anywhere. 

     

    See: ISD Board Members' Letter on Khursheed Anwar Case

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