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Bid to settle rape case with liquor

Suri, June 1: A kangaroo court in a Birbhum village tried to settle a case of a schoolgirl’s gang rape by offering pots of liquor to her family. The girl’s father eventually went to police, but after his demand for Rs 75,000 from the three accused boys was turned down.

The family of the 14-year-old schoolgirl alleged that the villagers, led by the local mustagir, threatened to set their house ablaze if they went to the police and did not settle the matter in the kangaroo court, resulting in a delay of three days in filing the complaint and medical tests to establish rape. A mustagir is a village elder who advises residents on religious rituals.

The kangaroo court diktat comes months after a similar gathering in the same district had ordered the gang rape of a tribal girl.

The police have started a case of gang rape against the three boys, who are between 17 and 18 years old. The accused boys and the mustagir are absconding.

A police officer said: “If it is proved during investigation that the father asked for money, we will take action.”

The father said a group of villagers had on Thursday told him to sort out the matter in the kangaroo court. He said when the court was called yesterday, some residents of the village suggested that the families of the three accused boys give the girl’s father three pots of country liquor — haria. But the girl’s father, a labourer, demanded that each of the three pay him Rs 25,000.

In the police complaint, the girl’s statement had no mention of the kangaroo court’s proceedings. The girl told this correspondent that on Thursday evening when she was playing alone near her home, the three boys tied her mouth with a towel and took her away. “They… took me near a pond inside a forest. Then they raped me.”

The girl, asked why the village court proceedings were not mentioned in her complaint, said she was told by a policewoman to write down what had happened on Thursday. “So, I wrote what happened with me. The policewoman helped me write the complaint,” she added.

The father said that when the family spoke to the police, “we told them about the shalishi sabha. I don’t know what happened later as I am illiterate”.

A police officer said: “If the matter of the shalishi comes up during the investigation and is found to be true, appropriate action will be taken.”

Asked why he demanded the money, the girl’s father, a farm labourer, said: “I was told that the matter will be solved at the shalishi sabha. I am a poor man and so I demanded Rs 75,000. But the demand was struck down. So, I decided to take my daughter to the police.”

The girl’s father added: “The villagers, led by the mustagir, threatened to burn down our house and drive us out of the village if I went to the police. They told us that going to the police would not help and the matter would be solved at the shalishi sabha (village kangaroo court). I waited till Saturday as the shalishi was scheduled on that day. But they wanted to settle the matter with three pots of haria, which I found unacceptable.”

He said: “I demanded Rs 25,000 from each of the three boys’ families. But the kangaroo court struck it down.”

Asked if a three-day delay could affect the findings of the medical tests the girl underwent this evening, a police officer not connected with the case said: “If a rape victim is sent for a medical test three days after the crime, biological evidence of the accused may not be found on the victim’s body. But the injuries will be there.”

The officer added that primacy was being given to the complaint of the victim because “medical tests need not always be conclusive”.

Alok Rajoria, the superintendent of police, confirmed this evening that “a case of gang rape had been started on the basis of the girl’s complaint”.

In January this year, a tribal woman was raped in Birbhum allegedly after a kangaroo court led by the morol ordered her gang rape. Eleven persons, including the village chief, were arrested. The girl is now staying with her mother in a government home.