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This palm tree of Birbhum’s Subalpur village is the only witness, if mute, of the brutal gangrape of a 20-year-old woman, which took place on the orders of its tribal Kangaroo court.
All through Monday, the woman and her boyfriend were tied to this tree. All night, she was raped by at least 10 men of the village. Their crime — the youth belonged to a different community.
But now, after the arrest of 13 people, the men in the village have vanished overnight. And the women vehemently deny anything inappropriate had taken place.
"If 12 people had really raped her for a whole night, could she be in a condition to walk or even stand?" said wife of Jhola Mardi, one of the men arrested.
The girl, the villagers said, had spent years in Delhi and returned last June. "Then we found out she was immoral and had lived with many men," said another villager.
"We had caught the girl and the boy red handed and so a salisi sabha was called," said a woman. "We called the boy’s family too. We said we could not allow the couple to stay as their behavior could affect our children."
A penalty of Rs 50,000 was slapped on each and after bargaining, the amount was reduced to Rs 25,000 for the youth and Rs 5,000 for the woman. The man’s family paid up and ensured his release. But the woman could not pay. The man has vanished since.
As for the woman who is battling for life in hospital — "she is telling an utter lie to take revenge" was the refrain.