The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gangrape slur on Godda cops

Deoghar, Jan. 28: Alleging gangrape of three Paharia women at Godda, 170 km from here, a section within the JMM today whipped up the demand for initiating the traditional Santhal system of punishment, “Bitlaha”, against the guilty and stone them to death.

The convention was informed of the incident by Rajmahal MP Hemlal Murmu, who claimed to have spoken to the victims in the jail. Murmu claimed that he received the information yesterday while he was on his way to Deoghar to participate in the JMM convention. He drove back to Godda, he said, and called on the three women, the youngest of whom is 28 years old and the oldest 31, in the jail. Two of the victims are married.

The women, claimed Murmu, complained that they were held captive for two consecutive days and criminally assaulted by two policemen. The MP also claimed to have seen marks of violence on the women’s body.

The police had arrested several men, including the husband and father-in-law of some of the victims. Murmu claimed that all of them had been physically assaulted and there were tell-tale marks of police brutality on their bodies. They were all arrested for their alleged involvement in the killing of one Deba Paharia (50), who was accused of practising black magic and of being a witch.

While the alleged murder took place in the remote village on January 6, police claim to have made the arrests on January 11. The victims, however, claimed they were arrested on January 9 and the women were illegally detained in the residential quarter of the officer-in-charge of Sundarpahari police station, Dipnarayan Mandal. They were raped by both Mandal and the ASI, Mahadev Oraon, the victims apparently told the MP.

But the Godda superintendent of police, Biglal Oraon, rubbished the allegation and said it had been concocted to derive political mileage. Declaring that no rape had taken place, he ruled out taking any action against the accused.

A female village chowkidar, the SP added, accompanied the arrested people right from Sundarpahari. Neither the escort nor relatives of the women who accompanied them to the jail, had lodged any complaint, he pointed out. He refused to believe the “story” and said that it was difficult to swallow the charge, being levelled 19 days after the arrest and their stay in jail.

Godda deputy commissioner S.S. Meena, however, has constituted a three-member inquiry committee, comprising the SDO, SDPO and a lady doctor to look into the allegation.

The MP, however, stuck to his stand and repeated that the women had complained that they were stripped and paraded in the residential quarter of the OC. Both the OC and the ASI were drunk, they recalled. They also alleged that even the paltry sum of Rs 120, which they had, were taken away before they were violated. The men who had been arrested, were apparently beaten up severely and left to lie in a stupor in the lock-up before the women were taken to the quarter. The women also claimed to have been tortured.

A doctor from Godda sadar hospital, who examined the women, also confirmed on condition of anonymity that bleeding of one of the victims had not yet stopped.

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