Locals in Assam’s Biswanath district have accused the administration of “lapses in investigation” into the alleged rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl, and the subsequent granting of bail to nine boys accused in the case.
Locals feel that the pandemic coupled with the cavalier attitude of the state police have jeopardised the case.
The incident had taken place on February 28 when a 12-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree at her village Gohpur. According to the victim’s aunt, her niece was kidnapped by a few boys from the village that evening and the next day, her body was found hanging from a tree in the forest nearby.
Police had arrested all the nine accused who were sent to a juvenile correctional home in Jorhat district. While one of the boys was granted bail on May 23, the others were also released on bail in the next four days.
“We want to pursue the case again but are too poor to do so. We will go to the police and register the case for a second time. She was kidnapped, raped and murdered by these boys who belong to rich families. The police have tried to hush up the matter,” said the victim’s aunt.
The police, however, said they had submitted the charge-sheet within the stipulated 90 days. Locals revealed that the nine boys had attended the same school where the victim was also a student.
According to the Headmaster of Rajabari Pathar Lower Primary School situated 5km from Gohpur town, the accused are now seeking admission in different colleges after being out on bail. They had all passed the Class 10 State board examination in February, some even securing First Division.
“I suspect they might have lied about their age to police. One of them is known for his notoriety and was rusticated from three different schools before finally passing his HSLC exam. Their free movement is dangerous for other students and the society at large,” said headmaster Madhab Patgiri.
Meanwhile, the Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK), a tribal organisation have appealed to the authorities of all higher educational institutions at local level to refuse admission to the accused.
“The guardians requested us to let their admissions be approved, but we have requested all Higher Secondary school authorities here to not take them in - till the time the court finds them not guilty of the crime. We came to know that few of them have sought admission outside the district,” said Hemjit Patgiri, secretary TMPK.
“The family members of the accused are trying to establish the girl’s murder as suicide although medical reports clearly said she was raped and had died of asphyxiation. We were and are still fighting for justice - because of the Coronavirus lockdown, things had slowed down. We were told by the advocate that the nine boys were released because of novel coronavirus,” added Patgiri.
A conglomerate of eight Schedule Caste and tribal organisations in Gohpur had organised a protest demonstration on July 12 demanding justice for the victim.
“We are not happy with the way the police handled the case and the sluggishness of the local court. People have been protesting for the past few days, demanding justice for the girl and her family,” said Bipul Hira, secretary of the Gohpur unit of All Assam Scheduled Caste Students’ Union.
The Gohpur unit of Mising Welfare Society has also written to the Chief Minister on two occasions - on March 25 and July 28, demanding that the judicial process be fast-tracked so that the “culprits can be punished (hanged) without mercy within a stipulated time”.
(With inputs from Palash Phukon)