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Sextortion Rackets: Madhya Pradesh Law Enforcers Turn Law Breakers

In a disconcerting trend, many law enforcement officials in Madhya Pradesh are embroiled in sextortion rackets, with alarming cases surfacing as the state eagerly awaits election results.

By Saksham Agrawal
New Update

Madhya Pradesh, one of India's largest states, recently conducted assembly elections on November 17, with 230 seats up for contention. As the eagerly anticipated election results loom, the entire nation is on edge, awaiting the outcome. However, irrespective of which political party emerges victorious, the most pressing challenge confronting the incoming government will be the restoration of the rule of law within the state. In recent times, the BJP-ruled state has witnessed sextortion rackets and a troubling breakdown in law and order, with those entrusted to uphold the law often being the very individuals responsible for its violation.

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The state of Madhya Pradesh has become a troubling epicentre for a disturbing trend – sextortion rackets. Sextortion, a menacing form of blackmail, involves the coercion of individuals by threatening to expose explicit content such as sexual information, photos, or videos. Perpetrators employ these tactics to extort money or compel victims to engage in actions against their will. What's even more disconcerting, as uncovered by The Probe, is the shocking revelation that several members of the Madhya Pradesh police force themselves are entangled in these sinister rackets.

The Probe recently engaged in a conversation with Ashish Chaturvedi, a whistleblower and RTI activist in Madhya Pradesh, shedding light on a disconcerting series of events. Two years ago, Chaturvedi alerted the highest echelons of the Madhya Pradesh police about the alarming involvement of police officials in sextortion rackets plaguing the state. However, what followed was a frustrating and inexplicable delay of nearly two years, during which the MP police appeared to take minimal action on the matter. It was only in the recent months that the police finally initiated a departmental inquiry, triggered by Chaturvedi's formal complaint.

Ashish Chaturvedi while speaking to The Probe stated that several districts in MP have seen such cases involving policemen. “These sextortion rackets not only tarnish the reputation of law enforcement agencies but also undermine the very trust that citizens place in these institutions. Two years ago, I came across a rape case that had been officially registered in Gwalior. As the investigation into this incident unfolded, a deeply disturbing truth emerged. It became increasingly evident that multiple police officers, who were expected to uphold the law, were themselves engaged in nefarious activities rooted in blackmail. What is even more shocking is that it was found that during the course of the investigation into this case, some police officials began extorting their fellow officers who were somehow connected to the case. It was only when certain officials approached me that I got to know about the full extent of the seriousness of the case,” states Chaturvedi.

In these sextortion cases, a sinister modus operandi emerged, revealing a disturbing collaboration between police officials and certain hotel staff. Together, they forged a nefarious alliance that thrived on criminal activities. At the heart of this operation was the trafficking of young women, who found themselves ensnared in a web of exploitation. Shockingly, these criminals surreptitiously recorded explicit videos of these vulnerable individuals, ruthlessly violating their privacy and dignity. These compromising materials were then cynically weaponised for extortion purposes.

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Perhaps even more disheartening is the fact that the very institution entrusted with upholding the law, the police department, seemed to have faltered in its duty to take decisive action against these heinous activities. Instead of safeguarding justice and security, it appears that some within the police force were complicit in perpetrating these crimes.

Chaturvedi has shed light on a disturbing misuse of Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by certain police officials for sextortion. According to him, a substantial number of law enforcement officers have been involved in the lodging of false First Information Reports (FIRs). These fraudulent reports have served as a convenient smokescreen for their extortion schemes, representing a reprehensible abuse of power within the very ranks of the police force. 

In the city of Gwalior, a disconcerting pattern has emerged, featuring the active involvement of the police in these reprehensible activities. This pattern typically begins with the false registration of cases under IPC Section 376, a grave offense related to sexual assault. Subsequently, these rogue officers proceed to orchestrate a scheme of blackmail and extortion, exploiting the vulnerabilities of their victims. Ultimately, these nefarious activities culminate in compromised settlements, leading to the closure of the cases.

"These incidents serve as examples of the sorry state of affairs in Madhya Pradesh. In a recent Section 376 case, the accused were apprehended merely 10 hours before the official registration of the FIR. Astonishingly, within a few short hours of filing the FIR, a compromise had been inexplicably reached. Furthermore, in another case, located in the Morena district, initially, a Section 376 case was filed against three individuals, as per the claims of the purported victim. However, shockingly, on the very next day, the victim recanted her statement, asserting that two of the accused were not involved in the alleged rape. It appears that some individuals within law enforcement have taken advantage of IPC Section 376 as a means to pursue illicit profits,” notes Chaturvedi.

He adds, “According to my findings in Gwalior, the names of at least seven police officers have surfaced in connection with these sextortion rackets. They are currently under investigation as part of a departmental inquiry".

The Probe reached out to Krishnaveni Desavatu, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Gwalior, for her perspective on the matter. However, when contacted, the DIG expressed her inability to discuss the matter as it was a case that was under investigation. When we reached out to Rishikesh Meena, Additional SP of Gwalior, we received confirmation that the departmental inquiry is indeed underway. “We are in contact with Ashish Chaturvedi. We are actively recording statements as part of our ongoing investigation. At this juncture, the case remains under active scrutiny, and we anticipate being able to provide a comprehensive comment upon the conclusion of our investigation,” affirmed Meena.

Madhuri Behan, a women's rights activist affiliated with the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, voices a concern with the recent developments. She underscores the gravity of the situation by pointing out that when police personnel become involved in such illicit activities, it becomes even more challenging for victims to muster the courage to reach out to law enforcement.

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“The very individuals entrusted with protecting the public often find themselves implicated as perpetrators of crimes, further eroding the trust and faith of the vulnerable in the justice system. Madhya Pradesh has been seeing a rise in trafficking of women and children, which has, in turn, contributed to a concerning surge in violence against women. This disturbing escalation can be attributed, in part, to the influence of social media, the growing criminalisation of politics and a corrupt police force,” states Madhuri.

She adds, “In one deeply distressing case, set within the jurisdiction of the Home Minister, two innocent young girls were ambushed on their way to school. Tragically, one of these girls fell victim to a horrifying sexual assault. Her despair led to a desperate attempt to end her own life, and today, she lies in a coma with a shattered neckbone. In yet another heart-wrenching incident, a young girl residing in the Chief Minister's region found herself relentlessly harassed, allegedly by a local politician. Shockingly, no action was taken against her tormentor. He was arrested but later released. Faced with this grave injustice, the young girl took the decision to end her life. Even after her tragic death, her family continued to be harassed and eventually her father also committed suicide”.

Madhuri reveals another case involving a family affiliated with the current ruling party within the state. In a horrific act, the head of the household, under the influence of alcohol, fatally shot his wife in the presence of their daughter and son-in-law. “This was a political family. The victim was a member of the mahila morcha. She had endured continuous abuse throughout her life, as per her daughter's accounts. If such harrowing circumstances befall a mahila morcha member, one can imagine the plight of the poor and the marginalised women of the state. In a separate and deeply disturbing case, another Adivasi girl was subjected to gangrape on two separate occasions within her workplace. What is shocking in this case is the fact that despite the unimaginable trauma she suffered, she and her family continued to toil at the very establishment and under the very people who gangraped her”. 

Madhuri states that a significant number of cases of violence against women go unreported in Madhya Pradesh just as in the rest of the country. Countless women hesitate to approach a police station, primarily driven by the paralysing fear of potential harassment by law enforcement authorities. Moreover, the dishearteningly low conviction rate for reported crimes only exacerbates the problem. In a majority of instances, accused individuals are acquitted, leaving women to endure the protracted and often arduous judicial process.

As the countdown to the Madhya Pradesh vote counting, scheduled for December 3, begins, it is crucial to acknowledge that, irrespective of which government assumes power, a paramount and urgent task must be undertaken - the thorough cleansing and reform of the state's police force. Failing to address the alarming issues plaguing the police force will inevitably erode the faith that the state's women have in the very institutions entrusted with their protection. Without swift and decisive action, the repercussions are clear - an increase in crimes against women and the further exploitation of the vulnerable in society. 

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