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The public outrage over the gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi and the promises by the government to punish the guilty swiftly and boost the safety of women triggers a sense of deja vu for Abhijit Pujari. And a feeling of hopelessness too.
Three years back, his 25-year-old wife Nayana, an IT professional, was gangraped and murdered. Six months after the gruesome crime that made national headlines, Abhijit, a chemical engineer, quit his job to concentrate on the trial. Fifteen months ago, one of the main accused in the case escaped from Pune's Sassoon hospital, allegedly with the help of a policeman.
Abhijit, now 32, who has been fighting for the death penalty for the accused, is at his wits end. For six months now he has been trying to meet state home minister R R Patil and Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde to press them to ensure that Yogesh Raut, the man who escaped, is arrested at the earliest. "The trial was on track, one of the accused, Rajesh Choudhary, had turned approver and had given statements against the other three accused. However, after Raut fled from hospital, the trial has come to a standstill. Police claim that they had formed a special team to search for him, but he continues to be absconding," said Abhijit.
"I am staring at this gaping hole, not knowing what to do. Every time a new incident of rape happens in the country, people keep talking about the need for stricter laws, fast-track courts etc. It all seems very far-fetched," he said. "My case is a glaring example where the police machinery failed to retain the arrested accused and have not managed to re-arrest the one who went absconding. It is known that Raut is wanted not just in my case, but also in the rape and murder case of vegetable vendor Vishala Mandal. How do we deal with this system?"