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Justice denied to gang-rape victim: Kunduli is kindling its kindred!
A tribute to a Class 9 schoolgirl Sasmita, who was gang-raped and then fought all alone for justice but didn't get.

After a long three-month battle Sasmita committed suicide. This is the tragedy of Kunduli's Sasmita: The knurl and knoll tell the Kafkaesque story of Kunduli… Kunduli's kaleyards express Koraput police, security forces, administrations and above all, the government's kibosh and how their behaviour was like kook and how their kiss-of-death action was in Kunduli.

Surprisingly, when the kettledrums and klaxons, both spread the knell the police personnel, security forces, administration and the government, no one heard it, rather they were busy creating Kunduli's knocking-shops' story for Sasmita. And finally, Kunduli cried and wrote its keepsake on each kerb of Koraput. What was the knocking-shops' story of Kunduli, why Kunduli cried and what Kunduli wrote?

She is a mother. She is a sister. She is a wife and she is a goddess. She is tender, she is kind, she is loving and she is worth worshipping. She is virtuous, she is beautiful and she is compassionate. She is merciful, hence forgiving but this society has not respected her. She is molested amidst a circle of security: and the administration in all its naivete calls her insane and thus shamed by the democratic government.

She is scared and petrified. This is neither a story nor a dialogue of drama. This is related to a gang rape of a minor girl from a remote inaccessible village called Malimarla. She endured all infamy, slander and the buried sibilants of her body. In her death she ridiculed this society, the government and the administrative machinery and proved yet again that woman is the epitome of kindness and forgiveness. But Sasmita from her heavenly abode is asking the society and the government when will justice be meted out to all the forgiving women?

The question is being echoed from the Malimarla village of Pattangi Police Station to the caves of the hills of Lenjiguda to all the interior villages of Koraput district. Who will answer these questions posed by Sasmita from the other world? Police, administration, government, BSF, CRPF or armed personnel of the security forces? No one will answer for here the elected government murders democracy and presents people with the ashes of agony. This is not only the story of Sasmita's gang-rape or suicide, in all corners of India now it is happening.

This is a tale of Musiguda where Gandas Chati (Dalit) lived happily with his wife Damali along with his son and daughter Sasmita. In this remote village inhabited by tribals and Dalits, days passed happily for Gandas' family. Both Gandas and Damali harboured high dreams for Sasmita. She would study, be educated and make a name for their tribal village. Thus passed the night and Gandas' dream but God had some other plans for Gandas. He passed away: divine grace in disguise, not to be alive to witness the suicide of his beloved daughter Sasmita following her gruesome rape.

Damali was determined to fulfill her husband's dream. Despite penury she armed Sasmita with pen and notebook to make her educated.

"In order to fulfill her father's dreams Sasmita set out to study. In her mind were golden dreams of a heady future. She started studying and was a student of class IX in Sorishapadar High School of Similiguda. She would study and glorify the status of her father and her family. She wanted to improve the conditions of tribal villages, to spread education among women and told her friends about her dream of eradicating superstition from the tribal society. In the sinful eyes of the society all the hopes and aspiration of Sasmita were sacrificed. Near Malimarla village close to Lenjiguda jungle, security forces were deployed to provide security to the administration and to the government officials from the Naxals. Four uniformed armed jawans of the Cobra Battalion made Sasmita's life a living hell. In order to satisfy their lust four jawans raped her one after the other with inhuman cruelty," narrates in a choked voice Parsu, a relative of Sasmita which is echoed by others. Before her death Sasmita had levelled similar charges too. Sasmita committed suicide on January 22, 2018 by hanging herself allegedly at not getting justice.

After the suicide of minor Dalit girl Sasmita, a three-member BJP team has been constituted by the BJP president Amit Shah comprising of the party's national secretary Saroj Pandey, Lok Sabha member Jyoti Durve and Anju Bala have rushed to Kunduli. The silence of the State Commission for Women on the issue is baffling. A demand for immediate handing over of the case to the CBI has also been raised. Accusing the state government of trying to cover up the case, the BJP team said the minor girl should get justice and action should be taken against those who have failed in their duty.

The Congress leader and the then Lok Sabha member Pradeep Majhee questioned, "Sasmita was admitted first for her treatment at Kunduli's Primary Health Center (KPHC), where is the doctor's report of KPHC? Why has it not been made public? Who has tried to suppress it and why?"

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expansion of the terms of reference of the judicial inquiry into the Kunduli incident in which a minor Dalit girl committed suicide allegedly after being gang-raped by four security uniformed persons.

The Chief Minister's office said that as per the directive of the CM, "The circumstances leading to the alleged suicide of the victim will be added to the existing terms of reference of the judicial probe into the alleged gang rape case."

The Orissa CID has sent the exhibits of the Kunduli rape case to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Kolkata, for re-examination. A dispute had surfaced questioning the findings of the report of the State Forensic Science Laboratory. After all these new development now the Sasmita cases has taken a U-turn and the Kunduli issue is back in focus.

On October 10, 2017, Sasmita had visited the Hatapada market to have her photograph taken. One has to go through the Lenjiguda forest in order to reach the market. One has to travel by bus from Hatapada to Malimarla square and then go to Musiguda village by trekking through a path in the jungle. While she was walking through the jungle, four jawans of the Cobra Battalion seized her and gang-raped her. After the ordeal Sasmita staggered home in great pain. In the village, her elder aunt screamed in agony after seeing Sasmita's unclad body. She was immediately taken to Kunduli Primary Health Centre and when her condition deteriorated she was shifted to SLN Medical College by relations and neighbours. After recovering slightly Sasmita narrated her harrowing experience.

The incident spread like wildfire in the region and people were incensed. People wanted the jawans to be arrested pronto, dismissed from service, and be asked to pay compensation to the tune of lakhs, provide a job to her in the future and finally demanding that the BSF and Cobra Battalions withdraw from the Pattangi area. People continued to agitate. Naveen Patnaik ordered an enquiry by the crime branch and then a judicial probe side by side.

Considering the matter to be grave and sensitive, the case was listed as a "Red Flag" offence. On 16 October, 2017 the police arrested four relatives of Susmita. They were released and another minor boy Papan Khara was sent to Bhubaneswar for a lie polygraph test and was released too. The manner in which police went about arresting these relations of Sasmita caused resentment among the local people.

It is significant to mention a few more facts here. There is a straight road from Lenjiguda to Musiguda besides a stream which mingles with Kolab river. There is a BSF camp in Raleguda of Pattangi whose members use this road to procure provisions for them besides conducting combing operations. Requesting anonymity, some women of Lengiguda village sai that on 10 October, 2017 some BSF jawans were seen coming out of the jungle and making for their camp.

The case report relating to Sasmita was submitted to the OHRPC on 6 November, 2017. Oddly, the OHRPC and the police announced that Sasmita was not gang-raped! The OHRPC which denied the allegation of gang-rape ordered for a financial assistance of Rs 50,000 to the alleged victim. Later, when Sasmita's condition deteriorated, she was admitted to SCB Medical College for treatment.

In Koraput hospital Sasmita was kept in isolation and was not allowed to meet her family members. Sasmita and her family members alleged that the DIG and a lady constable had pressurised her to blame Papan for her plight. In fact, the DG of police himself lured her with financial assistance if she "settled" the case as revealed by her. Everyone was stunned by the news while Sasmita pitifully pleaded for justice.

All of a sudden the DG of OHRPC Mahendra Pratap and the SP of Koraput KV Singh announced that she was not gang-raped, a pronouncement which astounded the entire state. It may be mentioned here that on 27 October, 2017 Sasmita's statement was recorded in the court under CRPC clause 164. The police even went to the extent of suggesting that Sasmita was suffering from delusions and tried to paint her as mentally deranged. When there were vehement protests, this statement was retracted and she was discharged from the hospital. Finally, the innocent minor girl Sasmita, having lost her battle for justice, put an end to her life by committing suicide at her home on 22 January, 2018.

There were large scale protests all over Odisha over Sasmita's suicide and now the news has spread nation-wide. Doubts are being raised over the method of investigation by Naveen Patnaik's government. Former DG of police Gopal Chandra Nanda says that since the subject is sensitive, many senior police officers are involved in it directly or indirectly. The police are yet to solve the case. The police should once again investigate into the incidents from the very beginning.

Senior lawyer Debasnana Dash says that no one has been able to analyze the legal terminology of "rape". Medical report is only an opinion. In this context, witnesses are important. Here, the plaintiff is the only witness. Though she is the sole witness, her statement has great significance.

"Rape cannot be described as rape only when there is sex without or against consent. Forcibly pulling a woman's clothing, touching her private parts or even touching her body can be rape. Before the completion of the investigation and submission of a final report how the police and OHRPC officials had issued statements that Sasmita was not gang-raped! This has raised doubts in the eyes of law. This is not acceptable by law because in the later stages of investigation, it will influence the circumstantial evidence provided by the witnesses or the witness. The mode of procedure adopted by the two officials raises questions about their integrity and transparency."

(To be concluded...)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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