Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Need action for the perpetrators of the crime against woman in Jharkhand
A Fact Finding Report of Violence against a Dalit woman in Giridih, Jharkhand By Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Ramdev Vishwabandhu and Pradeep Paswan She is completely lost and thoroughly crushed as she comes in front of us and just sits on the floor unmindful of the dust on it. As happen in most of such cases, she has herself become a subject to be discussed and her family regularly being threatened. Just 17 years of age and married twice, Sugani’s tale is the story of how dangerous the guardians of morality could be in our villages. Unfortunately, despite a most gruesome case being reported in the media here in Giridih, not much noise has been made. The organisations working for the Dalits, of the Dalits, by the Dalits, community organisations of Ravidasis, human rights organisations and women’s rights organisations have kept mum. On its parts, administration is absolutely silent and did not even deem it fit to provide protection to the victim and her family who are living in absolute fear. That their economic condition is pethatic reflect from their inaction to take the girl for medication. Police and administration has failed to provide any safety and security to this family Ravidasis Dalits here in Ranidih village which is about 60 kilometer away from the district headquarter of Giridih in Jharkhand state. Sugani is an agricultural labour who was speaking to a known family person from another village who had come to attend a marriage in this village. Just when they were interacting, a village boy Lakhan Das, 22, ask her as ‘who was speaking with’, who is this man? Is he your husband? He abusing her and slapped several time. This incident is of May 5th evening time. Lakhan’s mother intervened and the matter ended there. But the news spread like wild fire in the village. Rumours spread and on May 6th early morning, member of Mahila Samiti gathered together and picked up the girl from her home which is her father’s home at around 10 am. Her hair untied and dragged her to the lanes to the village school. Her aunt try to stop them but they threaten her with dire consequences and similar fate if intervene. There were about 12 members of the Mahila Samiti which is a Self Help Group of the village. According to the victim, these women members then made her naked and cut her hair. She was forced to eat human excreta and garlanded with Chappals. The women asked the men of the village to go out of the place. The woman blame that her pubic hair were also cut by these women and they tried to play with her inner part. She was persistently abused during those five six hours hour. She was kept in the sun. The male members of the family were not at home as they had gone to brick kiln and came home during the day. When the family came and heard from their women about this incident then Kapil Dev, a man known to this family from the neighbouring village came and got this stopped. This humiliation of a woman happened till 3 pm and most shockingly by the women themselves from the same community. In the evening the family of the girl went to the police station Deori to lodge an FIR. This falls under the Jamua Assembly constituency which is a reserved constituency. The family of the girl is a Ravidasi community and are agricultural labour. They don’t even know as what is the FIR filed by the police. So far no action has been taken. When the Mahila Samiti people came to know that there might be investigation and they might have to go to Jail, they have started threatening these people. It is ironical that no medical has been conducted on the woman so far. Our Visit We came to know about the incident during a visit of mine to Giridih when some of the local informed us about the incident and the inability of the administration to take action against the culprits. According to them, these women of the same community are running a SHG group and are dominant and play moral police. They threaten every one with dire consequences. Since the humiliation of the Dalit girl was done by the women of her community, the police found it difficult to register them under the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Now, this is an unfortunate situation as it is the woman who has to bear the brunt. Not even the community organisations or other groups came to her rescue so we decided to make a visit to the village and met the victim. We visited the victim’s house and met members of the family and neighbours on May 11th, 2011. We also tried to find out from neighbours, social activists and a few political activists about the incident. Daughter of Girdhari Das, an agricultural worker, Sugani has two brothers. Just at 17 she had faced many realities of life. Her first marriage was broken and her father got her married again. At the moment, she was staying with her father and other relatives. Her father is an angry man. Her mother cries to see the plight of her daughter. She has not eaten any food since the incident happen. Those horrible moments comes in her mind. Her aunts are angry with society, with government and with the political class as none has come to visit them. ‘Yes, the very unfortunate part of this incident is that we are continuously facing threatened by these Mahila Sanghathan i.e. women’s group to keep our mouth shut. They are very powerful people, we are poor so none come to us, said her aunt. The fact is that the girl is unable to recollect many things. Her confidence is completely lost by this event. The humiliation has shattered her body, mind and soul. It is like she does not know what will be her future. Her mother is quietly worried of her future. Till the writing of this, her husband had not known about this incident and the family did not know what could be his reaction. Our main findings were following: Findings 1. None in the village has denied the incident but the village was divided on nature. While the victim and her relatively were categorical that she was paraded naked and a stick with human excreta was forced on her mouth and her silver chain was snatched and hair were cut, the opposite side just felt that the hair were cut but all other things about parading naked was absolutely false. 2. A number of villagers pointed out that the girl was bad in character which clearly indicates that now the fear of an administrative action is forcing people to lie. While they are admitting that incident happen, they deny parading naked and all other charges levelled by the girl. 3. Most of the men actually deny having seen the incident and yet none of them were ready to condemn it even if it had happened. 4. The victim, her family and neighbours openly accused the Mahila Samiti members to have perpetrated this crime while the Mahila Samiti members flatly refused the same and said that a mad woman cut her hair. The victims family is facing threat from the girl. 5. Till the date of our visit, there was no trace of any police protection to the girl and her family. She was also not taken for medical examination. This is the criminal negligence on part of the police for not having done and action must be taken against them. 6. The victim actually named many people in front of us and there was virtual fight when people deny it yet it is true that villagers are divided on the issue. That does not reduce the importance of this incident and its wider repercussion. 7. One of the main reason for community unity in this case is that this is a case with in the community. The perpetrators of the crime of community women and hence it is a bit difficult for them to accept or involve the police in it. 8. The police and administration remain ineffective on this issue. No medical examination was done, no compensation was provided and no security to the girls family. She lives in constant fear from the threat of these powerful community women. Our Analysis of the situation This case is typical case as have been happening in our villages where the women are easy target of the ‘moral policing’. It is unfortunate that such things still happening and we have no police protection for those who become victim of it. After speaking to many witnesses or villagers, we realise that while people are saying that her hair were cut which were visible but she was not paraded naked. After I recorded her statement, it seems the message went across the village that they will now be traced and immediately they started sending us overtures that the woman is lying and no woman can be maltreated in our village. The young boys came to us said that the victim was ‘bad in character’. A man who the victim said did not come for her rescue said we must find out why she was paraded. It was clear that among themselves the villagers have justification of the incident. It is only because of fear of law that they retracted that she was not humiliated. My question to them was leave aside all other things, is cutting of her hair and placing a garland of chappals not humiliation ? When we were returning, some of these so called women’s group members met us and said that the girl was lying. One of the member said that the hair were cut by a mad woman. So, like any other incident of village pride, we will not find any witness to this incident also. We know that this incident happened with in the community and must be come with in the parameters of ‘crime for honor’ since it had happened with in the community and there is no chances of any SC-ST act being used in this case as it would have happened in the case of violence been perpetrated by non Dalits. The physical and mental condition of the girl is disturbing and need immediate medical attention. We know that in such cases the girls become victim of neglect and the families also consider them burden. It is time that the government must provide her due compensation. It is a shame that a Women’s group from the community perpetrated this ghastly crime. They must be arrested immediately and a message must be send across that such act of anti women violence by women or community would not be tolerated. It is not that only women were involved in the crime. Some men and the person Lakshman Das, who actually instigated the entire incident must be chargsheeted. Following names were given. The victim identified them with their husbands name. It is not the husbands who are the culprits but the wives who run the Mahila Sanghatan and Self Help Group. They are 1. Wife of Hira Lal Das 2. Wife of Dinesh Das 3. Rekha Devi 4. Krishna Devi 5. Savitri Devi 6. Geeta Devi 7. Bhutwa Devi 8. Dulari Devi 9. Anita Devi 10. Kunti Devi 11. Saraswati Devi 12. Suker Devi Ofcourse, the main culprit seems to be Lakhsman Das, who beat her up the previous day and then complained to the women members about the same. Our Demands 1. Immediate arrest of those who perpetrated the crime even if they happened to be Dalit women. Their organisation must be prohibited working in the community any more. 2. Action against police inaction and delays. 3. The victim must be rehabilitated. Full compensation must be given to her to make her life better. Medical treatment must be provided to her. 4. The Commission can send its own investigation team to find out further. 5. Provide protection to the family of victim as they live in continuous harassment. We would like to request the national bodies such as National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Schedule Tribe to look into these matters seriously. Caste and gender related violence in India is rampant and all this happens in the name of community honour. We know fully well that the debate in the village start from the character of woman and our police force and those in administration some time feel the same way and hence rarely we reach to conclude such cases. These commissions should Now have specific duties to investigate these matters themselves and take them To logical conclusions otherwise like many other unknown deaths in India, this case will also die.