Adivasis block the state highway at Kenpukur on Wednesday. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, June 24: Angry that police have been inactive in arresting youths guilty of gang-raping a 12-year-old girl, Adivasis of Kenpukur today blocked a state highway for more than eight hours today.
Armed with axes and bows and arrows, more than 1,000 tribals stopped traffic on the road connecting this town to Nalagola from 9am to 5.30pm. The blockades were set up at several points.
The tribals demanded the suspension of the inspector-in-charge of the Habibpur police station for not arresting the six youths against whom the victim’s father had lodged an FIR.
“She studies in Class VI and stays in the school hostel in Gajole. She had come with us to attend the wedding of my nephew on June 16, but she went missing that evening and we found her lying barely conscious in a paddy field close to where the wedding took place,” the father said.
He said the girl was taken to a health centre in Bulbulchandi from where she was referred to the Malda district hospital. She was admitted there till June 23.
“I had filed an FIR with the Habibpur police station and they had detained the six youths I had named after my daughter identified them. But I heard that they were let off and no charges filed,” the father said. He said the boys were relatives who had come to the wedding. The family is yet to get the medical report of the test conducted on the girl.
With the girl back home from the hospital on Monday, the incident came out in the open and the people of Kenpukur, 45km from here, were furious with the police. This morning, a group of villagers went to the Habibpur police station to demand an explanation but were turned away. Infuriated at the rejection, the tribals blocked the state highway.
“A minor was raped by six youths and a complaint was lodged. The girl was even hospitalised but the police took no action. This is not acceptable. We demand that the inspector-in-charge be removed from the police station,” said Sanku Baske, one of the men leading the agitation.
Mooli Murmu, also among those in the frontline of the protest, said they suspected foul play. “A large sum of money must have changed hands and the police have been paid off to hush up the case. The girl was in hospital for seven days and not once did the police go to record her statement,” Mooli added.
The block development officer of Habibpur, Rajesh Karketta, and the inspector-in-charge, Abhijit Saha, came to the spot with a large force but the tribals refused to budge. Additional forces were summoned from Malda, Gajole and Bamungola.
Malda police superintendent Satyajit Banerjee said he would look into the allegations brought against the police by the Adivasis. “The inspector-in-charge of the Habibpur police station has sent me a report that a minor was gangraped on June 16 in Kenpukur, but no complaint had been lodged. However, we are looking into the case with top priority and the guilty will be arrested. I am sending a senior officer to inquire, we will take action if any policeman is found lacking in his duty,” Banerjee said.
Around 5pm, the deputy superintendent of police, Nima Bhutia, went to Kenpukur and held talks with the agitators. The officer assured the Adivasis that the police superintendent was personally looking into the matter following which the blockade that ran for over eight hours was lifted.