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Police turn a blind eye to harassment of minor Dalit girl #WTFnews

Ritu Kumari (name changed) showing her torn clothes after being assaulted in the presence of police, in Patna on Monday. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar
PATNA

Published: August 5, 2013 18:22 IST | Updated: August 6, 2013 02:03 IST

Two bottles of alcohol, a wad of notes and a snack treat were enough
to buy the complicity of the police. A sub-inspector, constable and
driver did nothing when Ritu Kumari’s (name changed) clothes were
torn, when she was injured and burned with a cigarette. In fact, they
laughed at her plight.

Sixteen-year-old Ritu became a vulnerable target for the Singh family,
whose daughter had eloped with Ritu’s brother in June. The incident
immediately sparked a backlash as the boy belonged to the ‘lower’
Chamar caste and the girl to the OBC Kurmi caste. The girl’s relatives
came to Ritu’s house that same night with a group of men and
threatened to take revenge on the entire family.

“On July 31, the police arrived home. I was alone with my
sister-in-law,” Ritu toldThe Hindu. There were no women police
personnel present when Ritu was taken to the Shastri Nagar police
station.

“There, the girl’s mother was at the police station. She claimed I
would know where my brother and the girl were hiding. So the police
detained me. From there I was taken on a search mission in a police
vehicle to Bela [about 70 kilometres from Patna].”

The three police personnel, the girl’s mother Munika Devi, brother
Sintu Singh and brother-in-law Ashwini Kumar Singh were present in the
vehicle. No woman constable was present in the vehicle either. They
drove the whole night with Ritu looking for the absconding couple.

“When we reached Bela, Munika paid Rs. 10,000 to the police, gave them
two bottles of alcohol and treated then to ‘litti choka’ [a local
snack]. The rest of us were waiting inside the vehicle when Ashwini
Singh attacked me,” Ritu said.

According to her police statement, Ashwini told her, “How can a Chamar
boy be with a Kurmi girl? Just wait and watch how you get
dishonoured.”

With these words, he tore off Ritu’s salwar kameez and injured her
hands and legs. Meanwhile, Munika threatened to avenge her daughter’s
“kidnapping” by “doing the same” to Ritu.

Ashwini burned the hapless victim with a cigarette. But this aspect is
not part of her police statement. “I told the police, but perhaps they
did not put it in my statement,” she said. Ritu has nail scratches on
her thigh and arms. She has also kept the torn salwar kameez.

“I was screaming and crying,” said Ritu, “but the girl’s mother said
there was no use as the police were drunk and could not do anything.
In fact, they kept laughing. When I said I would file a case, they
laughed it off saying if I did that they could easily suppress the
case. They said nothing worked before the power of money.”

The search party found the runaway duo that night at around 2 a.m. and
returned to the police station. Ritu ran away and later went to Manu
Maharaj, Patna’s senior superintendent of police. She narrated the
incident to Mr. Maharaj after which the police recorded her statement
and filed a case on August 1.

An FIR was filed against the girl’s family members under the sections
341, 323, 354, 385, 34.

Initially, the police did not invoke the Scheduled Caste / Scheduled
Tribe (Prevention of Atrocity Act). However, during the course of
doing this story, the police sent a “correction slip” to the court to
invoke the atrocity Act as well, an officer told The Hindu on Monday.

The concerned police have not been named in the FIR. When asked, the
officer said their names would be added and “departmental proceedings
will be initiated against them.” He refused to divulge their names
fearing it would jeopardise the police’s reputation.

In a contradicting reply, Mr. Maharaj told The Hindu, “Why would we
suspend the officers? They helped the girl.” Ritu refuted this claim.

Interestingly, a few days earlier, the police had even denied the
incident. The special women’s police station where Ritu had gone
earlier did not heed her complaint and merely directed her to the same
police station she had escaped from.

Past threats
Before this incident took place, the girl’s family had threatened
Ritu. “Their abuses were very obscene. They threatened to abduct her
if they failed to find their daughter. They swore revenge because my
son ran away with a Kurmi girl,” Ritu’s mother told The Hindu.

Ritu has stopped attending classes due to the incident.

“I am afraid what will happen to me. When they could assault me in the
presence of the police, anything can happen. Out of fear of a backlash
we had to leave our house last month. We spent three days on the
road,” she said.

The harassment is still not over for Ritu. She suffers routine taunts
from the girl’s brother and other people in the neighbourhood. “They
boast about the fact that they could do all that to me before the
police.”

Demanding justice, she said, “I want all of them, including the
police, to go to jail for what they have done. Tomorrow it can happen
to anybody. If I don’t get justice, my college will stage protests in
the streets.”

 

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