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'My monster father forced himself on me'

While India is still reeling from a woman's televised allegations of ritual incest, similar stories are emerging across the country.
Hasmukhbhai Rathod, 54,a practitioner of the ancient Indian art of the occult, left, and a 49-year-old  Indian businessman who is alleged to have raped his daughter for more than eight years are escorted by police officers outside a court in Mumbai.
Hasmukhbhai Rathod, 54,a practitioner of the ancient Indian art of the occult, left, and a 49-year-old Indian businessman who is alleged to have raped his daughter for more than eight years are escorted by police officers outside a court in Mumbai.

NEW DELHI // The arrest of a 49-year-old Mumbai businessman last month in connection with the rape of his two daughters has been followed by reports of other cases of incest across the country. His eldest daughter, who is 21, last week went on television to recount the eight years of abuse she endured, which police say was done with the knowledge of her mother. Police have also arrested a Hindu mystic, Hasmukhbhai Rathod, in connection with the rape of the two daughters. They say the parents allowed him to rape the eldest daughter on several occasions after he told them it would help the family business to prosper. The victims' mother has also been arrested for aiding and abetting a crime. The final charge sheet against the three has not been presented to the courts. The 21-year-old victim told how she endured the abuse silently, but finally decided to reveal the incest when she discovered that her father and Mr Rathod had recently started raping her 15-year-old sister. "I had to bear with long years of abuse because it was my parents who were my key tormentors. When they first began abusing me in my childhood, sometimes I thought of exposing the torture to my school teachers or some schoolmates, but I was confused when I found I had no place to go if my parents were sent to jail. Also, my mother maintained a constant surveillance on me since I began resisting the abuse two or three years ago," she said to the TV cameras, her face covered with a scarf. "My monster father forced himself on me at least three times a week and in the past nine years the [mystic] has raped me several times. I turned into a wreck mentally and physically. I was forced to drop out of my school and lost touch with the outer world. But, when they set on my school-going minor sister I knew I could not see her life ruined like mine and pledged to stop them at any cost." She added: "I wish I could kill my parents and the [mystic]. At least they should be hanged. They do not deserve to live." Details of the case emerged last month, the day before Josef Fritzl, an Austrian man who admitted to raping his daughter and fathering several children with her, was sentenced to life in prison. After the arrests, police said it was Mr Rathod, 54, who raped the eldest daughter first, in 2000. Maithili Jha, the chief investigator of the case, said the parents and Mr Rathod had admitted they had been involved in group sex with each other for several years before they began abusing the eldest daughter. Newspapers reported this week that the father was twice beaten by members of the public while being taken to court. Since the story broke, four other cases of incest have been revealed, the latest coming on Sunday when a man, who works in the Gulf and has three children, was charged with raping his 13-year-old daughter. His daughter and wife complained to police in the village of Falipta, near Phillaur in Punjab and he was arrested. Another man was arrested last week in a village near Nagpur city in Maharastra state after villagers helped rescue a 15-year-old girl who had been raped by her father for four years. Also last week, Punjab police arrested a 40-year-old man in Amritsar district who faces charges of raping his daughter over a period of eight years. The 20-year-old victim, a university student, said to Times Now TV that she got the courage to turn her father in after seeing the Mumbai case on TV. "My father threatened to kill me if I told anyone of the abuse. But the courage of the older sister in the Mumbai case finally took me to the police station. I know my father is powerful, being a leader of the BJP, but I shall fight on ? this man deserves a bullet in his head." The cases have shocked the country, and India's National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is concerned about the sudden rash of incidents. "It's a serious issue. Not only do children need to be counselled, but also parents who are always in a denial mode that such things cannot happen to their kids. Thus, even if such an incident happens, the child is forced to keep mum about it," Sandhya Bajaj, a commission member, was quoted as saying by the media. According to a 2007 Indian Child Abuse Report, social workers say that 53 per cent of children in India are sexually abused, and in most cases the accused is known to the victim and often are from within the family. Pinagapani Manorama, a Chennai-based child rights activist, said: "Most parents try to hush up such abuses considering that family's image would be tarnished if incest is made public. "This attitude needs to be changed in the supreme interest of the child. We have to succeed to convince parents that by suppressing incest they are becoming perpetrators of crime against their children. "Most Indian parents tend to overlook incest considering it a social taboo. In the process the interest of the child is sacrificed, for what they believe, greater interest of family." aziz@thenational.ae

Updated: April 2, 2009 04:00 AM



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