On the 4th of May, 2020, the life of one family in upscale Gurugram came to a screeching halt. A 17-year-old boy, Manav, jumped from the 11th floor of his apartment building, landing on the road below and ultimately, losing his life. In the matter of just one hour, Manav’s life had turned upside down and he decided to end his life, to shield himself and his parents from the troubled path that lay ahead.
At that time, the Bois Locker Room controversy was just about gaining steam. An Instagram group had been outed by a girl, where a bunch of teenage boys were seemingly discussing women, sharing their explicit photographs and discussing how the gang-rape them. Though it was later found that the chat about ‘gang-rape‘ was initiated by a girl who was trying to “test” the boys, at the time, a raging discussion had erupted about the conduct of up-scale boys and the lack of respect for women and their privacy.
Amidst the controversy, a teenage girl took to Instagram and narrated a story about how she was allegedly raped over 2 years ago by a boy named Manav. In her post, she explicitly shielded herself by adding a disclaimer – ‘I don’t have any proof’.
Women often don’t have proof when they are sexually assaulted, however, this case was different. Once the story was uploaded on Instagram, immediately, several people connected the story to the Bois Locker Room controversy. As is our society, and several times, rightly so, the girl was instantly believed and the boy was instantly declared a rapist. In the one hour that followed, threats were made to the boy, he was vilified, branded, insulted, abused. The pressure and the prospect of a life of shame were too much for Manav to accept. Within just an hour of the post going viral, Manav plunged to his death.
After his death, his friends took to Instagram to talk about his side of the story – He was not a rapist and he did not deserve to die, they said.
In one such post his cousin, Rishi, wrote that Manav received threat calls and messages after the girl’s story went viral on social media. He said that Manav tried to defend himself in front of the girl and her friends who had accused him. He tried to convince them that he was innocent but he couldn’t handle the constant threats and believed that his side of the story would not be heard.
Rishi said that Manav was not involved in the Bois Locker Room controversy, and that was true. His name simply got clubbed because the controversy was raging at the time. Further, after his suicide, an insensitive post was made by the girl who had accused him. She said that if he could not “take the pressure”, then it was not her problem. Rishi said that this showed she had no remorse about her alleged lies.
The parents lodged a complaint with the police and their inaction at the time distressed them. After the death of Manav, the police had gone to the extent of alleging that Manav had a ‘poor character’. Manav’s father, while talking to OpIndia was dismayed at the statement.
“This absurd claim was made by parents of one of the girls to the police. It was made after the 4th of May, once Manav was cyber murdered. The parents of the girl, who made this claim was also involved in naming, shaming, bullying, harassing, trolling Manav – all of which led him to take his life. They forced him to take the extreme step of taking one’s life, a life which a 17-year-old Manav loved so much. Of course, the Police at the behest of the parents and their encouragement fanned this narrative, without even making an enquiry. After all, the girl’s parents assumed that slander is the best means of offence, as they have ZERO defence in support of the crude & obnoxious posts made by their wards”, said Manav’s father.
Manav’s father said that he was a boy who was ambitious and enterprising. He had even started a small business where he would buy wrist bands in wholesale and retail to his friends. He would tell his friends the cost at which he had purchased the wrist band and his retail price. According to Mr Manoj Kumar, this showed that he was an honest person. He was also not someone who used to check his phone very often. “Once in the morning, or evening and before he went to sleep, perhaps”, he said.
For a parent, the loss of a child is perhaps the greatest loss one can suffer and when the parent feels that the police is not taking adequate steps to ensure the culprits are brought to book, the agony is far greater.
In the first 10 days, the Police absolutely took no actions, in fact, they were shielding the accused for reasons best known to them. These are not my words but of Gurgaonites, which have been articulated by the Hon. Magistrate of Gurgaon Court as well. Even when the FIR was lodged, it was done in the name of unknown persons, whereas we had named the first accused by name and mentioned Instagram as a party. This was perhaps done to leave an escape window for the culprits, as they were using all the influence and power they could muster. They are extremely rich, resourceful and just like their daughters, with scant respect for propriety, law and order.
When the Police went to meet the first accused the first time, they were told that the girl had gone to Punjab. This was on 6th/7th May when there was lockdown in full force. So who arranged passes for them? Did they go to Punjab or their parents gave a false statement to police and lied to protect their criminal girls and tutor them on what to say, if the Police question them? They had the first week to prepare their story, get lawyers, and take care of the system…if you know what I mean. They tried all the tricks (fair & unfair) to ensure that an FIR is not registered and completely derail justice.
Mr Kumar not only alleged conspiracy to shield the culprits, but also said that the girls themselves had hatched a conspiracy to ensure they target Manav. He alleged that the girls had hatched a conspiracy to murder his son.
“The Grisly Gurgaon Girls Gang – 4Gs – which had about more than 10-12 odd girls cheering the prime accused as they went about torturing Manav with their false and fake accusations, all the while maintaining that they have no proof. The 17+-year-old girls, who are only technically minors, but otherwise fully mature, well educated and sure about their intentions picked up Manav from amongst a list of potential boys they could target”, he says.
He adds, “She talks of an instance which occurred 2 ½ years back when Manav was less than 15 years old. It’s a fake, contrived and imaginative slander, as you know no one can enter a condominium in Gurgaon unless a resident approves. There is a 2 level check. Then she claims that Manav molested her in the basement. Were there no CCTV cameras? Could she not raise her voice? At 14-15, if you look at her photographs she is far better built than Manav. Why did she come back a second time if what she claimed is true? Okay, she goes home and doesn’t tell her mother, parents or any of her friends? She lives a normal life and on 4th May decides to cook up this story, just to get a bit popular, get sympathy and get the support of feminists and play a victim. She lied about what happened”.
After all of this, when Mr Manoj Kumar initially approached the police, he was told that they cannot investigate this case aggressively because “there are girls involved”. “What if the girls take a drastic step because of the investigation?”, Mr Kumar says the police asked him repeatedly. While talking to OpIndia, Mr Kumar said that the police made him feel like the culprit who was trying to harm the girls, rather than the victim who had been harmed by the girls.
“The society as a whole only listens to anything which a girl says. Manav was wise & knew this. He knew that society will never accept his justifications, no matter what. Even any untrue and fake allegations are made credible by girls – the society likes to take the side of a girl. It is because of such girls that the real girl victims will do not get heard, with seriousness. As it is ½ of all molestation allegations in the Rajasthan, for example, turn to be fake and motivated”, he said.
“We were also told countless times that the Police are going slow in the investigation as there are girls involved. So we told them, fine we will keep patience. We were asked would we be able to live in peace if any of the accused takes some drastic step? Well, finally I had to tell the Magistrate that as a victim I seek justice and if any accused takes a drastic step of harming themselves or anyone else, that is the responsibility of police & child welfare. We cannot be silenced by this contrived logic”, added Mr Kumar.
On the day when Manav committed suicide late at night, Mr Manoj Kumar tells us that he was studying for the entire day. In the first half, they had made a run to the stationary shop where Manav ended up buying 8 pens. He said that there was no telling for how long the lockdown would be in force, and hence, it would be better if he bought all those pens.
After studying the entire day, Manav wanted to treat himself to a good meal. Manav and his family had a hearty meal of burgers and fries, and retired early for the night. Manav and his father had two desks side by side where both of them used to work and study at night together. That night, after dinner, they decided to go to bed. Little did he know, that only a couple of hours later, his son would be no more.
Before going to bed, Manav must have checked his phone and got to know about what he was being accused of since the prime accuser and her friends were constantly tagging Manav on Instagram. After the allegations went viral, he tried to explain to the girls and their friends that he was innocent, however, his pleas fell on deaf ears. According to Mr Manoj, the prime accused girl’s boyfriend had also called Manav and threatened him for “misbehaving with his girlfriend”. Manav was told that in return, he would come down to India and rape his mother. This tale was narrated to Mr Kumar by Manav’s friends after he had died.
Manav’s friends, however, stood by him like rocks. They knew he could never be capable of what was being alleged. He was studying to go to Canada and had his eyes set firmly on the ball. He wanted to study International Business.
Before he committed suicide, he went a text message to his father and mother.
“I love you papa”. “I love you mom”.
To his friends, he said that he wanted to be a good person, but after this, the world would never see him like that. Even though he was innocent, reveals Mr Kumar. His father said that Manav’s life revolved around his family, his study, his close friends and his dog – Momo.
He committed suicide because he did not want his parents to suffer. He committed suicide because he knew this would haunt him. He committed suicide because, in that moment, his life was over anyway. He jumped from the 11th floor. All of this, from the allegations to his suicide, did not take more than an hour.
Our world came to an end when we saw the body of Manav lying on the road below, his skull smashed, parts of brains spluttered out. We felt as if everything is over and there was no point in living. When we started to learn bit by bit, what transpired, our anger at the unfair treatment of our son grew. It swelled when a second post was made by the prime accused a day later, taking no responsibility. Well, she took responsibility by admitting that Manav was gone. Manav went solely because of the post she made and she is the prime accused in murder of my only son.
He further said:
The dharam-yudh for Manav’s individual justice (#justiceformanav) is a long fight which his family, friends & countless well-wishers & supporters are undertaking. But this is not about a boy or a girl, man or woman, human or animal. We strongly believe that anyone guilty should not go scot-free. Especially those who take advantage of gender-based laws and protection mechanisms. The fight is against those who misuse the provisions with impunity & carefree abandon.
Every living being deserves Justice and a right to be heard. Manav was denied it. No one has the right to lead a mob, encourage it and create situations to lynch an innocent boy. We seek your time to think about a 17-year-old innocent boy, who cried & begged to be heard. All he got in return were more false accusations, taunts, barbs & finally threats to his and his parent’s life. It has taken a life – Manav’s. If we keep quiet, it will take more innocent lives. It MUST stop.
Distressed, Mr Kumar wants the same punishment for the girls as is awarded to rapists.
Such an incident should never ever happen again and it will only be possible if the guilty are punished after a speedy trial. It should deter any girl to make baseless allegations on social media. If the punishment is less, then the girls will happily go scot-free and make a mockery of the whole legal process. If the sentence is less, mark my words all the girls involved will repeat this again and again. They will know that nothing can touch them and they can ruin a boy, his parents and the world can go to hell. The charge on Manav is of sexual assault/rape. Whatever the punishment is for rape for a man, the same must be applied to all the girls for making a false allegation. These girls raped Manav’s soul. The highest possible sentence must be awarded. Then only sense will prevail, lesson learnt and justice will seem to be done.
In his fight for justice, for himself, his family and his lost son, Manoj Kumar had a rocky start with the police hardly being cooperative. Almost 4 months after Manav was driven to take his life, justice has not been served. We asked Mr Kumar what he planned to do if the police continued to walk to the path of least resistance.
There is no reason for Police to shield the accused anymore. The girls have tried to evade justice and also sought anticipatory bail, though only interim bail has been granted. I will pursue this case to the highest levels to bring justice for my son. I can be ignored, hurt, mauled but this whole incidence also gives me the strength to be strong, for the countless boys and girls who face similar situations. Someone has to stand up and raise their voice. Manav choose us. We will ensure justice for Manav.
What is this justice that Mr Kumar talks about? Is it just about the culprit being held accountable?
Mr Manoj Kumar says that once he lost his son, his resolve became unshakeable that the fate that was met by his son, should not be met by anyone else. Nobody else should be driven to end their life simply because the system failed them. Because social media companies failed to maintain checks and balances. “They could have suspended the girls’ accounts. They could have done so much. But they did nothing”, he says.
Social media platforms cannot take refuge under safe harbour conditions. They are liable for the actions of the members, as they created a Frankenstein platform which is being misused. They are equally to blame and can’t wash their hands off the responsibility. The least India should do is raise the minimum age for social media platforms as 18 and if the child is less than 18, then a strict protocol of controls is desirable. I have written to Instagram, but there is no response.
Since the police had not bothered to ask for archives from the social media companies Snapchat and Instagram for several weeks, Mr Manoj Kumar had taken matters into his own hands.
He had sent emails and notices to all social media companies. In fact, while he knows it will not be read, he had even emailed Mark Zuckerburg.
One of the people that he emailed was the United States Embassy. He pleaded for their help since Instagram was an America-based company.
Unfortunately, the email was to no avail.
Today, Mr Manoj Kumar has a steely resolve to affect change. He does not just want the culprits to be brought the book, but wants social media companies to come up with systems that can protect children like Manav from the onslaught of unverified slander.
But what is a parent supposed to do? Is there anything that we can learn from the ordeal that Mr Kumar has to go through today, and perhaps, for the rest of his life? What do we do protect our children?
The advice for parents, schools and the government is to regulate the use of social media amongst minors. When the age to select a government is 18, how can a 13-year-old have a license to say whatever she or he likes and get away with it? With freedom also comes accountability & responsibility. Here the girls and their parents are accountable for everything which has happened in Manav’s life on 4th May.
One the accused is out on interim bail. The parents put one foot in front of the other every day, waiting for justice. While Mr Kumar displayed composure for the duration of this call, he broke down when he spoke about his son – “He was my only child. He is gone. All I want is justice”, he said.