‘If You Raise a Voice, I Will Murder You’: A Teen Girl in India Was Raped by a Politician. Then the Alleged Cover-Up Began.

July 20, 2021

When she was 16 years old, a girl in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, was asked to visit the house of Kuldeep Singh Sengar, then a powerful local politician, for a job interview.

“He stripped me of my clothes. He closed the door and subjected me to a sexual assault,” the girl said in court testimony. “When I opposed, he said, ‘If you raise a voice, I will murder you.’”

So began a nightmare that continues today, some four years later, for the young woman, who has not been publicly identified.

“She told us that she has been receiving death threats and is under 24/7 police protection,” says journalist Ramita Navai, the correspondent on an upcoming special report, India’s Rape Scandal, from FRONTLINE and Channel 4.

But the young woman has raised her voice anyway.

The above excerpt from India’s Rape Scandal introduces the story of the young woman, whom the film team agreed to call Jaya. Hers is one in a wave of shocking rape cases in India — some of them drawing in politicians, like Sengar, from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP — that have been accompanied by allegations of cover-ups, despite the fact that the government has vowed zero tolerance for sexual assault.

“Her allegation is that she tried to get a complaint registered against Kuldeep Sengar, but his name was repeatedly dropped out of the charge sheet and the complaint,” Aishwarya S. Iyer, a journalist for The Quint who has reported extensively on the case, says in the above excerpt. (The state’s chief minister publicly rejected criticisms that Sengar had been protected.)

As the documentary goes on to explore, Jaya did not give up calling for Sengar to be held accountable — even after her father was killed, followed by her lawyer and two aunts.

“It’s incredible how strong-willed this woman is,” Iyer says in the film. “To see death so close, to see your family being consumed by a complaint that you are raising and to still be at it. … It’s a stunning, stunning story.”

Although Sengar is now in prison for Jaya’s rape and his role in her father’s death, he still has a loyal following, the documentary reports.

In the film, Navai also investigates another alarming rape case in Uttar Pradesh that raised further allegations of political cover-ups. One of India’s most respected and senior legal figures told her these cases should be a wake-up call for more accountability concerning violence against women.

“Why should anybody, you know, remain silent when something like this happens?” Madan Lokur, a former judge on the country’s supreme court, says in the documentary. “You know, they should speak out. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator is — the government, the state, the police machinery,  everyone should come out in the open and say that this is wrong.”

For the full story, watch India’s Rape Scandal, part two of an hour-long FRONTLINE broadcast on Tuesday, July 20 that begins with Leaving Afghanistan. With Navai as correspondent, India’s Rape Scandal is produced, filmed and directed by Jess Kelly and produced by Monika Ghosh, Swati Gupta and Riddhi Jha. Both India’s Rape Scandal and Leaving Afghanistan will be available to watch in full at pbs.org/frontline and in the PBS Video App starting Tuesday, July 20 at 7/6c. The hour will premiere on PBS stations (check local listings) and on YouTube at 10/9c. India’s Rape Scandal will premiere on Channel 4 in the UK on July 27.

Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

As Biden Announces End of U.S. ‘Combat Mission’ in Iraq, 21 FRONTLINE Docs Provide Context
President Biden said July 26 the U.S. combat mission in Iraq is drawing to a close. These documentaries illuminate the Iraq War and its aftermath.
July 28, 2021
THE PEGASUS PROJECT Live Blog: Major Stories from Partners
A curated and regularly updated list of news articles from our partners in “The Pegasus Project,” a collaborative investigation among 17 journalism outlets around the world.
July 28, 2021
‘A disturbing shooting’: Salt Lake County district attorney says officer was justified in killing handcuffed man
An exasperated district attorney tried to get two points across at a Thursday news conference. The first is that as the law is currently written, Longman’s shooting was justified. The second is that Gill thinks the law should be changed. 
July 22, 2021
What Is the Fatemiyoun Brigade and Why Does It Make the Taliban Nervous?
Amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Taliban leaders claim Iran is mobilizing its proxy militia the Fatemiyoun for civil war within Afghanistan.
July 20, 2021