The following is a press release issued by Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS):
An all–India women’s fact-finding team of four members visited Gajapthi district in Orissa on September 30 and October 1 to investigate into the alleged rape, on February 12, 2010, of a 20- year-old Adivasi woman by security and police forces.
Village Jadingi along with other villages of Gajapati district have been subject to combing operations as the area is supposed to be having hectic Maoist activity. The arrest and rape of this woman has largely gone unreported and therefore there was a need to investigate. The team met the woman, her parents, people in her village, the sarpanch, panchayat samiti members, her two lawyers, local police station personnel, the jailer and the jail pharmacist. A telephonic conversation was made with the SP, Gajapathi district.
Facts of the Case
According to the police diary, the woman, a Kondh, resident of village Jadingi, Adava Police Station, Block Mohana, was picked up along with two others by SOG and other security staff led by ASI D. Mahapatra from their villages on 12 February, 2010. No woman constable was present at the time.
She was picked up at about 4 a.m. in village Jadingi, as per the testimonies of people in the village. Many villagers (more than seven, in the presence of the entire community) testified that the security personnel had forcibly entered their houses and beaten them up.
The woman was beaten up in front of her parents and other villagers. She was then dragged away along with three others (her brother and cousins) from her village. Subsequently, another two boys were picked up from Tangili, a neighbouring village. She was blindfolded while walking. Two of these boys were allowed to return after they had walked a few kilometers from the village.
The police records, however, show that she was arrested at 4:30 p.m, which is almost 12 hours after she was actually picked up from the village.
She was gang-raped in the jungles before being brought to the police headquarters. She has clearly stated this in her statement to the Magistrate, and also in her testimony to us. She was also shown obscene pictures on the mobile and sexually abusive language was used by the police/SOG forces.
She and her cousins were threatened at gun-point not to divulge any information about this incident.
Several people, including the sarpanch and her family members went to Adava Police Station to enquire about her and the others by about 10 a.m. on the morning of February 12 itself, but they were not allowed to go in and meet anyone, and were told that they have no information from the barricaded gates of the thana itself. They waited the whole day, but no information was provided to them about her whereabouts and safety.
A month later, the family was able to trace her to R. Udaigiri jail when some people of a neighboring village reported hearing that she was there. Upon meeting her, she immediately informed her parents about the rape incident.
Her father filed a complaint in the J.F.M.C. Udaigiri only in August 2010 about the incident of rape in custody. There has been a continuous atmosphere of tension and insecurity amongst the adivasi villagers in the area since this incident; people are voluntarily surrendering to avoid being falsely killed in encounters or arrested and getting stuck in jails uncertainly. All these factors, plus the fact that his daughter was engaged to be married in May 2010 and this kind of news would harm her future prospects played on the parents’ mind before taking this decision. They have also written to the Chief Minister, State Women’s Commission, State Human Rights Commission and Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court. They have received no response from anyone.
The Magistrate has taken the petition into cognizance, and has recorded her and her father’s statements. Despite the seriousness and gravity of the crime, the police has not taken any action in filing an FIR or initiating an enquiry against its own personnel. In fact, the SP does not feel that he should be doing anything suo motto even though he said he is well aware of the incident through various sources, including the media.
The manner in which she was picked up and the subsequent lapses in procedures clearly show that the security forces, the police, the court and the jail have completely disregarded all safeguards available for women in custody.
*She was picked up in the night hours from her residence.
*No woman constable was present at the time of her pick-up in the village.*No custody memo was given to the family members.
*Instead of anyone from the family / village, a ‘fake’ witness has been recorded in the arrest memo (her family members and local sarpanch waited in front of the thana the whole day but they were not given any information and could have been called in as witness).
*Place of arrest has not been shown in the arrest memo.
*No medical examination was done at the police station or at the time of producing in the court.
*At the time of producing before the Magistrate, she was only asked to sign some papers and her finger-prints were taken. She was not asked anything about ill-treatment and whether she needs legal assistance or a medical examination.
*At the time of entry in the jail, she reported being severely beaten up with rifle butts by the security forces (this was confirmed by the pharmacist also). Instead of taking this as a serious human rights violation and probing further (which might have revealed the rape in the beginning), this was considered as a routine case and was treated with simple pain-killers and other medicines.
*Only a cursory medical report has been prepared at the jail.
*Although it is mandatory that under-trial prisoners should be presented in the court once every 15 days, she has been presented in the court only once during the entire period of over seven months of judicial custody till the petition on the rape case was filed.
The Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression network demands:
*Criminal proceedings be immediately initiated against the police and SOG personnel who were part of the raid team on 12February, 2010 for committing the heinous crime of rape and/or protecting the perpetrators.
*Procedures and safeguards for protecting women in custody must be strictly adhered to.
*Women in conflict areas are much more vulnerable to sexual violence and we demand a serious response from the district and state administration when a woman shows the courage to make such a serious complaint.
Members of the Fact Finding Team:
Shivani Taneja (Bhopal) (tel-9425600382)
Pramodini Pradhan(Bhubaneswar) (tel-9439200989)
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is network of women’s organizations, human rights organizations and individuals from across India. It is a non-funded effort initiated by women, and is concerned with atrocities and repression against women by state and non-state actors, especially in conflict zones. Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org