Kandhamal, no woman’s land?

Kandhamal Orissa

Two minor girls were gang raped and one of them was murdered in Kandhamal last month. Orissa police is yet to take any action while local and state media remain silent

By John Dayal

The gang rape of two teenage Dalit girls in Kandhamal, Orissa and the murder of one of them subsequently during the Dussehra festival in October has created not just panic in their villages, but a sense of disgust among rights activists for the pathetic attitude of police and the State Child Right Commission.

The writer met the surviving victim who is now working as a casual labourer with her parents in Bhubaneswar, capital of Orissa.

The first one, a class VII student of Dadamaha, had gone to witness a ‘yatra’ (play) at nearby Simanbadi village on Thursday night when the youths sexually assaulted her. Sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), Baliguda, Arjun Barik said the girl apparently attempted to raise an alarm, she was tied to a tree and strangulated to death with her scarf. The body was found from the roadside near Masanipada village 26 October.

An autopsy was conducted on the body at Daringbadi public health centre and a case was registered on the basis of an FIR lodged by her father. There have been no arrests so far.

The second girl, a resident of  Ritangia village in Tiangia block, was also 13-year old, and a student of class VIII in a local school. Her father is now a security guard in Bhubaneswar, and the girl lives with relatives to continue her studies. On 27th October, she went to see the Dussehra festivities, which attract a large crowd. On the way home, she was abducted by six men, taken to the nearby forest and raped by all six of them. She collapsed.

She regained consciousness after one of the rapists sprinkled water on her face. One of them put a shirt on her and brought her close to the village. She was found in the marketplace in the morning, and taken to her aunt’s house.

Initially the local police did not help at all. She was brought to Bhubaneswar and taken to the offices of the State Commission for Child Rights. This is where she was subjected to mental torture by those designated to help children in distress. The chairperson was rude and said this was a police matter and that she could not do anything even if she believed the story of the girl.

In the all-woman police station set up for registering crimes against women in an environment friendly to the victims, the office on charge was absent. When Inspector Itti Das came to the office at last, she too was rude, and even more crude. According to the woman social worker who had accompanied the victim to the police station, the woman inspector said “you would not be alive if you had been gang-raped”. The implication was that the girl was covering up, had gone with the rapists of her own accord.

The police filed a report at last, and referred the report to the Raikia police station in Kandhamal. The victim was finally given a medical examination on 3rd November, a full week after her traumatic experience. The medical report has not been given to the police yet.

Activists who are now counseling the girl, who was still in a state of shock when we met her, are aghast at the manner in which the child right chief, a government appointee, and the woman police officer behaved with the young girl.

Surprisingly, the local and state media have chosen not to investigate the story.

John Dayal is an independent journalist and civil rights activist.

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