On 10th of October, a case of gang rape on a minor girl from Patangi area of Koraput district of Odisha was reported in the media. The victim girl belongs to the dalit community and according to her allegations the alleged rapists were in uniform put on by security forces and were carrying guns. The incident caused massive reactions from people in the district. People came out in large numbers to protest against the incident. It needs to be noted that large number of security forces have been deployed in the areafor a long time now. There have been serious allegations in the past by local people against these forces. In this background, considering the seriousness of the allegation a team consisting of members from three human rights organizations i.e., PUCL, CAFC and GASS visited the area from 23rd to 25th October to find out more about the alleged incident and the prevailing situation in general. During the visit, the team interacted with the concerned girl, her family members, the villagers, the young boys who have been reportedly tortured by the police in course of the investigation into the incident, the local police and the DSP, HRPC, the district child protection officer, the counsellor assigned to support the girl, some local journalists and activists. Pending a detailed report, the team would like to stress upon the following concerns for now.
About the condition of the victim:
- She is in a state of trauma and anxieties and is in need of care and support. Family members are not given any information about her treatment and for how long her treatment would continue. She was kept in the labour ward for many days which itself can be traumatic for a young girl. Now she is shifted to a separate room but there are three police women on duty to protect her who sit in the same room. She has complained of being pressurized by the police to ‘admit what exactly happened’.
- The girl’s family is affected in many ways and thy too need care and support. The whole family is staying in the hospital and not knowing when they will be relieved is a cause of anxiety for them. Being a very poor family, arranging money for day to day food expenses is a big concern.
About the direction of investigation:
- It has been found that the investigation is not proceeding as per the FIR of the complainant. Rather, the investigation is focused on people who were not named in the FIR.
- It is a matter of great concern that some youths, including two minor boys, from the complainant’s village have been brought under the purview of the investigation and have been harassed and tortured by the police in various ways. One of the minor boys has complained of being illegally detained for a long period and inhumanly tortured compelling him to admit that he was the one who assaulted the girl. He was even taken, in the middle of the night, to the hospital where the victim was kept and pressurized before her to admit that he assaulted her. The police even went to search his house in the village during night time and the entire village is now living in fear of police. The boy was also compelled to undergo lie-detection test.
- On the other hand, although the complainant had mentioned in her FIR that those who assaulted her were wearing uniform similar to worn by security forces, it seems the investigating team have not pursued this angle seriously. For example, the investigation has not considered the use of dog squad, not asked for a sketch of the culprits as described by the complainant, not included in the investigation the security forces coming to the area from Andhra Pradeesh for joint combing operation and not considered mobile telephone records to ascertain the presence of force personnel in the area.
- Steps need to be taken immediately to support the girl recover from trauma and lead a normal life. The concerned authorities need to ensure how she can pursue her education without fear and stress.
- The police must stop harassing the villagers and the young boys in the name of investigation.
- The investigation must address all angles as mentioned by the complainant in her FIR.
Pramodini Pradhan and SharanyaNayak – People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), M-9439200989
Narendra Mohanty – Campaign against False and Fabricated Cases, M-94374266477
DebaRanjan – Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan, M-9437762272
(The victims is still in the hospital under treatment)