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Rape taints Assam Rifles again

Nagaon, Feb. 9: Police tonight arrested an Assam Rifles jawan on the charge of raping a minor girl in Diphu, pushing the paramilitary force back into the spotlight after last year's turbulence in Manipur over the death of a 32-year-old woman in its custody.

The incident came close on the heels of new army chief Gen. Joginder Jaswant Singh's vow to give a more humane face to the forces.

It also came at a time when the review committee on Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is touring the Northeast following the uprising in Manipur over the alleged rape and death of 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama in Assam Rifles custody in July last year.

Wary of a similar backlash in Assam, authorities of the paramilitary force handed over the accused to the police after a warrant was issued following orders from a Diphu court.

Additional superintendent of police (headquarters) Mukul Saikia said the accused, 29-year-old Gautam Tamang, has 'confessed' to his crime.

Tamang, who hails from Chariduar in Sonitpur district, was deployed at the Assam Rifles Training School in Diphu.

Two women who helped Tamang commit the crime were arrested yesterday and remanded in judicial custody.

Karbi Anglong superintendent of police Pankaj Sarma said the duo was identified as Katche Rongpipi and Sushila Ranghangpi.

Sarma said the 12-year-old girl was lured to a house in front of the training school by the two women.

'A medical test has confirmed that she was raped after being sedated with sleeping tablets,' the police official said. 'Acting on an FIR lodged by the girl's family, she was rescued the next day while the jawan was trying to whisk her away to Dimapur.'

Police sources said the jawan could have been planning to sell the girl to a brothel there.

The Karbi Students Association and the Karbi Progressive Women's Association demanded capital punishment for the jawan.

'The two women who had helped the jawan should also be given exemplary punishment according to law,' Pankaj Teron, the general secretary of the students' association, said.

Echoing Teron's demand, the general secretary of the women's forum, Helen Terangpi, said: 'We want justice. When security personnel commit such crimes the authorities wash their hands of it by doling out some money to the victims.'

The women's group today submitted a memorandum to chief minister Tarun Gogoi through Karbi Anglong deputy commissioner Anurag Goel, requesting Dispur to initiate 'a thorough investigation'.

In August 2003, a group of CRPF jawans, led by a police official, raped a minor Karbi girl and molested three women at a village near the district headquarters.

In a recent directive, the Assam Human Right Commission directed Karbi Anglong police to pay Rs 50,000 each as compensation to the victims of the incident.

The death of Manorama in Assam Rifles custody had kicked off one of the biggest mass movements in the country. The armed forces act was singled out as the main culprit as it gave extraordinary power to the security forces.

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