3 years after Dec 16 case, rape spree unpunished in Chhattisgarh
A minor girl and a pregnant woman were among several women allegedly gang-raped, assaulted and looted by security personnel in a remote, Maoist-dominated area of Chhattisgarh. But no arrests have been made nearly two months after the shocking incident.
Police lodged an FIR on November 1 against “suraksha bal”, using new provisions introduced to the IPC following the December 16, 2012 gang rape of a young physiotherapy student in Delhi, which led to nationwide protests, and demands for stronger anti-rape legislation. The amended law provides for prosecution of rape crime by armed forces.
When this reporter visited the villages last week, many women narrated disturbing details of the brutality by a joint team of paramilitary and police during an October 19-24 anti-Maoist operation carried across five villages in Bijapur district, over 500 km south of Raipur, capital of conflict-ridden Chhattisgarh.
“Two men held my hands down on either side. Another man sat on my legs and raped me. They said I was meant to be killed, but I was being spared. They said, the next time I would be dead. I became unconscious when it was happening,” the gang-raped minor said.
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Police lodged the FIR, acting on an alert by a women’s fact-finding team who happened to visit the area on October 30 and reported widespread violence. Police and senior district officials also met with the gang-raped teen, assaulted women and eyewitnesses.
“When I heard the women’s stories, I was completely shocked,” said Bijapur collector Yashwant Kumar.
However, no official from the police or civil administration has visited the villages yet, citing the threat of possible Maoist attacks. Officials have summoned some of the assaulted women to Bijapur town to formally record their statements.
Additional superintendent of police (operations) IK Elesela, who is heading a four-member team set up to investigate the case, denied any attempt to shield the guilty.
“It is hard to convince the public we are sincere. But a slow investigation does not mean a cover-up,” he said.
Two more fact finding groups – one led by a local civil society group and another by a local Congress MLA -- visited the area in November, and uncovered accounts of more violence.
“It is clear that the forces acted in a manner intended to create fear and terror in the villages,” said Sarva Adivasi Samaj in its report submitted on December 2 to chief minister Raman Singh.
The Congress team’s report said: “After touring the villages and meeting with the women, we have to conclude that the jawans crossed all limits. Their inhuman acts send a chill down our spine...and should shame us all.”