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DC orders judicial probe into torture case

Tura, May 10: West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Pravin Bakshi today ordered a magisterial probe into the alleged torture of 12 girls, who were held captive by rights activists who claimed that the girls were victims of sex trade.

The girls, aged between 18 and 24, were held captive by the activists at the rented house of Jaynie Ningring Sangma at Danakgre, on the outskirts of Tura town.

They were rescued by local residents on Thursday evening and handed over to the police.

The five activists, Jaynie Ningring Sangma, Babiana M. Sangma, Merrlyn D. Shira, Konica S. Sangma, and Lonavi R. Sangma, were arrested yesterday and have been remanded in 14 days’ judicial custody.

Dadenggre sub-divisional officer Sibhi C. Sadhu, assisted by two extra assistant commissioners, Tengchi Momin and Rojalinda D. Shira are heading the magisterial probe. Bakshi said they would submit their report after a month.

The activists claimed that the deputy commissioner had given them permission for the raid and that he knew about the girls being in their custody.

Bakshi said, “The allegation is totally baseless. It has been very strongly asserted that all breaches of law are immediately acted upon, no matter who the culprit is.”

He added that he had prevented the activists from conducting any raids. “The NGOs had been prevented from undertaking any raid as soon it was brought to my notice that they were planning to raid places on suspicion of a sex racket. They were told to always co-ordinate with the police.”

Bakshi said, “The NGOs said the girls could be counselled with the help of pastors and brought to the mainstream. Since no FIR had been lodged either by the NGOs or by the parents, the administration could not enforce any action. The counselling was to be done under the supervision of the church and it was informed to me that the parents are in touch with the girls.”

Bakshi said, “It was repeatedly made to appear that the girls were under care and compassion and were counselled for a few days before being handed over to their parents. When we received allegations that the girls could be minors, we sent officers from the district child protection unit on May 8.”

“The child welfare committee paid a visit to Jaynie’s house on May 9. They were supposed to be handed over to their parents on Sunday,” said Bakshi.

On claims by the activists that the deputy commissioner had given them permission for the detention of the girls, Bakshi said, “The women neither have any permission nor were they given any funds or authority for illegal detention or worse, of physical assault. The counselling was being monitored by frequent visits by the media and no complaints of physical abuse was reported.”

On the claims of a rehabilitation package being offered by the deputy commissioner to the girls, as claimed by activists, Bakshi said, “There was no job or wage offer from our side to the girls. Any other claim by any party involved is ludicrous.”

On accommodation being provided to activist Jaynie at the circuit house, Bakshi said, “We were forced to provide accommodation to one NGO leader who was attacked on May 8. An FIR was lodged and a delegation of women leaders and pastors came to meet me late in the evening around 9pm fearing for her life. This happened before the allegations of torture came out.”

“All aspects of the case are being investigated. It is a shame that the name of the deputy commissioner is being dragged into this, whereas we could have first handed over the girls to the women police according to law,” he added.

NGO outcry: Impulse NGO Network, Shillong, is preparing a detailed case study and is taking up the matter with the state and national women commission. It is also demanding that bail should not be granted to the five accused activists involved in the case and compensation for the girls.

Hasina Kharbhih of Impulse NGO network said, “Impulse case info centre is preparing a detailed report. If the victims require any immediate rehabilitation, we will provide counselling and psychological support. We are also seeking legal support to deal with the matter.

Civil Society Women Organisation has condemned the torture meted out to the girls.

The president of the organisation, Agnes Kharshiing, said, “Whoever is involved should be punished.”

She said there were 13 victims but police has produced only 12. Kharshiing questioned why police have registered a suo moto case. Two FIRs were filed in connection with the case yesterday by the relatives of the victims.

West Garo Hills SP Mukesh Singh had said the injuries were so serious in nature that even without an FIR, a suo moto case can be taken up.

Kharshiing also said the police and administration were making an effort to discredit the activists.