(Media Release) The case of an Indian man who tortured and killed his daughter’s alleged rapist has shocked the country – but many are hailing him as a hero. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey met the family.
When a 36-year-old Delhi father of six told his wife last Friday that he wanted to spend some time chatting with his tenant in their first-floor bedroom and asked her to sleep with the children on the ground floor, she didn’t suspect anything unusual.
But what happened that night turned her world upside down.
In this tiny 6ft by 8ft room, the father – according to his own account given to the police – tied and gagged the tenant, heated a steel spatula on the stove and burned the man’s genitals. The man did not leave the room alive.
The father – who cannot be named for legal reasons – voluntarily turned himself in to the police saying he believed his victim deserved such torture. He believed the man had raped his 13-year-old daughter.
The young girl told me that a few weeks ago she was alone at home when the tenant “pulled me into his room, tied my hands and raped me”.
He then threatened to kill her father if she told anyone about it, according to her account.
And then, 10 days ago, when she started vomiting, her father took her to a doctor where he found out that she was pregnant.
“First he was very angry with me. When I told him it was the tenant, he said he would teach him a lesson,” the teenager said.
The family lives in Chandu Nagar slum in the Khajuri Khas area of north-east Delhi. It is a maze of narrow lanes where tiny houses sit in each other’s shadow. Here, open drains with charcoal grey soupy filth line the roadsides and one has to be careful not to step into the excrement lying about.
The father, who made a few hundred rupees daily selling burgers from a handcart, was known to be a mellow family man. Nobody expected this.
“I had (Free-Pr-Online.com) no inkling about anything. I had no idea that my daughter had been raped and that she was pregnant,” says her mother, unable to hold back her tears.
The 45-year-old tenant was well-known to the family and had been living in one of the rooms in the house for the past five years. He paid 500 rupees ($8; £5) a month as rent.
“We are from neighbouring villages in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. We had known him for a long time and treated him as a member of our family,” says the girl’s grandfather.
“We had no idea he would betray us like this,” adds the grandmother.
It was 3:45am on Saturday when the father walked into the Khajuri Khas police station to confess to his crime.
“He looked very nervous. He said he had made a mistake, he said he had killed someone,” said sub-inspector Arun Kumar who first spoke to him.
“He said that when confronted, the tenant had taunted him [the father]. This is a case of grave and sudden provocation,” the policeman continued.
Rape has been under the spotlight in India since December 2012 when a 23-year-old student was gang-raped and murdered on a bus in Delhi.
Global outrage forced India to introduce tough new laws, including the death penalty for particularly grave crimes, but many are upset that two years later, the attackers of the Delhi student are yet to be punished.
They were handed the death penalty, but their appeal is pending in the Supreme Court. Many Indians resent the slow pace of the judicial system where court cases can go on for years.
In spite of the new law, the reporting of rape cases in India has gone up hugely – from 24,923 rapes in 2012 to 33,707 last year. It means that every day, 93 rapes were reported.
Against this backdrop, the killing in Khajuri Khas has generated sympathy for the father, with many saying they would do the same.
After the story was first reported over the weekend, many described him as “a hero” who “did what he had to do”. Others expressed the hope that he would escape harsh punishment.
It is a sentiment felt on the streets of Khajuri Khas too.
“Any father would do that,” says Mohammad Ayub who fixes cycle rickshaws less than a kilometre from the scene of the crime.
“What’s the point of going to the police and courts? They ask for all kinds of evidence. In our country, justice takes too long. Justice should be done in two months, but here cases go on for six-seven years.”
His colleague Noor Mohammad says the father should not be punished at all. “What he did was right. He should be freed.”
Inspector Arvind Pratap Singh, who is heading the investigation, says he has never encountered a case like this.
“We generally have to chase murderers, they don’t come to the police station on their own,” he says.
“I understand that everyone’s sympathy is with him, but we’re duty bound. He has committed a crime, he will have to face the law.”
His family, meanwhile, is inconsolable. As we walk up to the first floor, I find the rooms where the father and the tenant lived locked with huge padlocks on the doors.
“Police have sealed the rooms and taken the keys,” says the mother.
I peep into the tenant’s room through the cracks in the door and I can see a bed, a stove, some pans on the floor, and some bottles and jars on a shelf.
From the window outside the father’s room, I can see two little pots with green plastic leaves and a small shelf on the front wall with a statue of the Hindu goddess Durga.
As I prepare to leave, his four-year-old son asks, “Where is father? When will he return home?”