A long, silent and dark road cuts through vast farmland. There are no streetlights. Dhabas and hotels lining the stretch are shut.
This is National Highway 91, inaugurated with much fanfare by the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party 18 months ago. Today, locals have renamed it "rape road".
NH-91 is a 405-km stretch of road that connects Delhi to Kanpur. A stretch of this highway through Dostpur village in Bulandshahr was the site of a horrific gang-rape of a 35-year-old mother and her 14-year-old daughter on Friday night by a criminal gang.
The women, who live in Noida, were travelling in a car with two male relatives and another girl, and were en route to Shahjahanpur. It was around 2.30 am when the gang stopped them.
A resident of Bulandshahr, without wanting to be named, told ScoopWhoop News that the highway had always been unsafe since it opened, so much so that he never ventured on the stretch in the night again after a "scary incident".
The 40-year-old man, who runs a department store in the city, said he took that route to Kanpur a few months ago.
"It was past midnight. For kilometres at a stretch, there was not even a flicker of light. No police pickets on the way. Criminals could appear anytime and rob, kill, maim me. No one would have heard my screams," he said.
"I was alone and had already travelled 30 kilometres, but I returned. I did the right thing," he added.
The Hindu details a first-hand account of travelling on the 105-km Delhi-Bulandshahr stretch in the day. They found that the road had only three police vehicles patrolling it whereas, as per norms, there should have been 21. Cops were dozing at places and there were no streetlights.
An ABP News report on travelling on the stretch in the night paints an equally scary picture. The reporter, a woman, found that most dhabas and hotels along the road were closed down. And those that weren't, didn't seem safe enough for a family, let alone a single woman, to stay in.
The reporter found police patrolling vehicles at short intervals on the stretch, specially around the rape site. But then the UP police has swung into action only after the incident became national news. It's anybody's guess whether the patrolling will last afterwards.
A similar account by The Times of India, on the other hand, said that one could only hear insects in the dead of the night around the spot where the gangrape took place. When the reporter halted the car there with the headlights on, not a single vehicle passed for a full 15 minutes.
Locals are now complaining to the media how incidents of robbery are fairly common on the stretch.
Nar Singh Pahalwan, owner of the farmland where the rapists allegedly took the survivors, told Hindu: "Just 15 days ago, there was a chain snatching incident barely half a kilometre from the spot where the family was intercepted by the dacoits. A man was riding a bike with his wife and son seated behind. A group of two-three men came, and snatched the woman’s chain and earrings. And that was about it. The police never could catch the thieves."
Last year, the highway witnessed about four cases of gangrape, including one involving a nursing student near Dharma Mor. In January last year, a 7-year-old girl who was in Bulandshahr to attend a wedding, was raped.
Sadly, political parties are busy playing a blame game over the incident when they should be doing something about the highway that is in dire need of attention.
Feature image: Twitter / @htTweets