Raped twice for daring to raise her voice against a corrupt sarpanch, a Dalit woman ended her life in full public view in Betul on Wednesday.
Urmila Bai, a former panch in her 30s, had told the police on October 9 that she would take the extreme step if they failed to act against Kale, the sarpanch’s son, for raping her. Frustrated over police inaction, she carried out her threat by consuming sulphose in front of the collector’s office on Wednesday. She was immediately rushed to the district hospital, where in her dying declaration to the sub-divisional magistrate she said Kale had raped her twice because she had complained against his father. She also spoke of how she had suffered the barbs of villagers and the indifference of the police for years.
After her death, the police arrested the accused. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday ordered strict action against him.
During her tenure as a panch in Badgaon village between 2001 and 2005, Urmila had accused the then sarpanch Suraj Yaduvanshi of financial and other irregularities. Enraged over the complaint, Kale allegedly raped Urmila on June 21, 2003. She complained to the police, but in vain. Unable to take the barbs of the villagers, Urmila went to live with her parents in their village. Last year, she returned to her in-laws after the death of her father-in-law. Kale allegedly raped her again on September 25. This time too she lodged a complaint with the police. This time too, no action was taken.
On October 9, Urmila lodged a complaint at the Special Scheduled Caste police station in Betul. Here too, the police remained deaf to her complaints. Exasperated, she threatened to end her life in front of the collector’s office if they did not take action against her rapist.
Betul SP Jagat Singh denied the police had failed to act on Urmila’s complaints. “The police counselled both parties. In fact, they asked her to undergo a medical exam many times but she dithered.”
A TV channel quoted the SP as saying that the villagers had said Urmila had a habit of lodging false complaints. He also reportedly said that she did not cooperate with the investigation.