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.
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
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
the victim with some drug. She alleged that the drug mixed in her drink
strong that she completely passed out and could not even stand on her
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.
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
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.
- 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.”
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
the internal inquiry, three board members of ISD -- namely Kalyani
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.
had at no point either
contacted ISD board members or Kavita Krishnan or anyone else to press
this case be taken up. I stood by my thumb rule that unless the victim
present to demand my help I will not run ahead of the victim to take
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
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.
Board Members' Letter on Khursheed Anwar Case