The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Imrana happens in Bengal too

Behrampore, Nov. 2: In a rerun of events that threw Imrana Bibi of Uttar Pradesh into a cauldron of controversy, 22-year-old Manoara Bibi (name changed) of Murshidabad was asked by a village salishi three months ago to divorce her husband and marry her rapist.

When the rapist refused to marry her, the salishi ordered him to pay Manoara a fine of Rs 18,000 but only after her divorce was through. Again, the rapist refused.

Village elders branded Manoara “characterless” and the mother of four was asked to leave Katabagan, near Behrampore, about 210 km from Calcutta, and return only after she got a divorce.

When Manoara and her husband Muluk Sheikh told the salishi that they wanted to stay together, the arbiters asked them to pay Rs 50,000 or leave. The amount was beyond small farmer Sheikh’s means.

Manoara went to lodge a complaint with Behrampore police last month but it was not registered. Today, she met additional superintendent of police Shankar Chakraborty and submitted her complaint.

“We will arrest the culprits. Villagers cannot take the law into their own hands,” Chakraborty said.

Early in the morning on July 25, Manoara was raped by a villager after being forcibly taken behind a bush when she went out to relieve herself. She returned home and told her husband.

As word spread, a group of villagers led by Aziz Mullick, Shajahan Mullick and Israfil Sheikh called a salishi on July 29 where Manoara, her husband and the rapist were summoned.

“I felt humiliated. My disgrace was out in the open. They branded me a woman of loose morals and ordered me to divorce my husband. They also told me to marry my rapist,” said Manoara, after submitting her complaint.

“This woman (Manoara) is characterless. In the past, she had physical relations with many youths. So, we decided to drive her out and asked her to divorce her husband. We also made it clear that if her husband wants to stay with her, he, too, will have to leave. The decisions were unanimous and there is no going back,” said Aziz Mullick.

Manoara, with her children, went to live with her parents in nearby Gakunda village. But her father Rezaul Sheikh and stepmother also drove her out as she was branded a woman of loose morals. She finally found shelter at an aunt’s house.

“My husband wants to take me back but they won’t let him. My husband meets me secretly,” Manoara said.

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