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Rape cover-up bid foiled

Malda, July 21: An attempt to hush up the rape of a seven-year-old tribal girl in a Malda village through a salisi meeting was foiled by an adivasi leader who helped the family of the victim lodge a police complaint three days after the incident.

Police are looking for Samuel Baske, 29, who allegedly raped the girl on Thursday afternoon. He was caught red-handed by the parents of the victim and thrashed by villagers.

In the police complaint lodged today, the girl’s mother said the village headman had convened a salisi meeting on the day of the rape and warned that her family would be ostracised if the matter was taken up with the law enforcers. “At the meeting, our morol (headman), Jiban Tudu, said we should settle the matter among ourselves. He made Samuel apologise. Then the morol told us that the matter should not go beyond the boundary of our village. We were warned that if we went to police, we would be socially boycotted,” said the girl’s mother.

Other than Samuel, a farm labourer, his family members were also present at the salisi session.

“We remained silent though we were not mentally ready to accept the decision of the morol. However, our leader, Salko Baske came to us and assured us of all help and protection. Today I filed a detailed complaint with the police,” said the mother.

Salko, the Malda district secretary of the Adivasi Unnayan Samity, came to know about the incident yesterday morning. “I was appaled that a family will be threatened after their minor daughter is raped. I met the family yesterday. I had made arrangements for the family to file the complaint today,” said Salko.

The minor’s mother said she, her husband and daughter were working in a cornfield on Thursday. “Our house is just 500 metres from the field. Around 2pm, my daughter left to fetch our lunch. When she didn’t return after a while, I and my husband went to look for her. We found Samuel raping my daughter in our house. We raised the alarm and neighbours caught him and thrashed him,” the mother said.

The adivasi leader said a movement would be launched if the accused was not arrested. “We will not accept that a minor’s rapist will go scot-free. We demand that the accused be arrested immediately or we will launch an agitation,” Salko said.

Malda police superintendent, Prasun Banerjee, said a police team was sent to the village as soon as the complaint was received. “All attempts are being made to apprehend Samuel. The village headman, Jiban Tudu, has also fled after the complaint was lodged.”