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Tribals fiercely back rape accused
Rally support for arrested village head

Dhobajal, Feb. 2: Speakers at a meeting of tribals in a Birbhum village today went on the offensive, iterating that the village head of Subalpur had not ordered any gang rape and accusing the media of “spreading wrong information”.

Around 2,000 tribal villagers attended the meeting at Dhobajal village, 9km from Subalpur where a girl was allegedly gang-raped on the orders of a kangaroo court headed by morol (village head) Balai Maddi.

The Bharat Jakat Majhi Maroa, an all-India social welfare organisation of tribals, had originally planned to hold a meetings of morols all over the state. Around 80 village heads, mostly from Birbhum, attended the meeting. The others, members of the Bharat Jakat Majhi Maroa from Birbhum, Burdwan, Bankura, Purulia, Hooghly and other districts, came after hearing about the meeting.

Police said the organisers had not taken their permission for the meeting, where many tribals carrying bows and arrows were present.

Those at the meeting resolved that the tradition of “majhi-haram (tribal self-rule) would have to be kept intact. The Tribals entered the meeting ground waving bows and arrows and shouting slogans demanding release of the arrested persons. As the tribal leaders spoke, the armed villagers roared and waved the traditional weapons over their heads.

The meeting started with a speech by Mallika Tudu, a resident of Subalpur. “We caught the girl (who was allegedly gang-raped) and the man (with whom she apparently had an affair) and tied them to a tree. But she was not raped by anyone because we had guarded her the entire night (of January 20-21). The police arrested innocent people of our village. She would not have survived had 13 persons raped her,” Mallika said from the dais.

Thirteen persons, including morol Maddi, have been arrested for alleged involvement in the gang rape. Maddi has been accused of ordering and leading the atrocity.

Prithwi Murmu, the Burdwan head of the Bharat Jakat Majhi Maroa, waved a letter containing some resolutions taken at the second salishi meeting in Subalpur on January 20 involving the gang-raped girl and the mason with whom she was allegedly having an affair. The letter has the signature of a Trinamul panchayat member.

“We don’t have faith in the law. Our majhi haram system (of a morol overseeing a village) is enough to take care of our problems,” Murmu said.

The tribal leaders accused the media of “spreading wrong information” that had “tarnished the image of the tribal community”.

“Media persons did not play the right role. They presented wrong news in television channels and newspapers,” Murmu said.

A cameraman of a news channel was allegedly beaten up during the meeting for recording the proceedings today.

Nityananda Hembram, the disham majhi (the national head of the Bharat Jakat Majhi Maroa), was present at the meeting.

Hembram later told The Telegraph: “We are not happy with the police investigation in the case. We want a CBI probe.”

The Bharat Jakat Majhi Maroa had planned to organise a meeting of morols in Subalpur a week ago but was denied permission by the police. So the outfit decided to hold the meeting in Dhobajal without police permission.

Birbhum police chief Alok Rajoria said: “They did not take permission from us. We will take legal action.”

A district police officer said: “As the incident) alleged gang rape has become a high-profile case and the mood in and around Subalpur is hostile against the girl, we are likely to ignore the fact that the meeting was held without permission.”