Magsaysay award winner Mahasweta Devi, whose works on the tribal community are well documented, Thursday termed the gangrape of a tribal girl in Birbhum district as “ unprecedented and rarest of rare case.”
“I have spent my entire life working on the tribal community and have never come across such an incident in which a tribal girl was violated by tribal men. The tribal society pays respect to the women of their society. They pay more respect to the women than we do in our society. This is an unprecedented incident,” the octogenarian said.
She added: “In my life, I have spent countless days with the tribals… I have always witnessed endless instances of tribal girls being brutalised by non-tribals. The tribal girls have always been exploited by men and I have always fought for them. But this incident has shocked me… I condemn this incident and I want the government to act tough on the aggressors.”
Mahasweta Devi is renowned for her work related to the study of the Lodhas and Shabars – the tribal communities of West Bengal – women and dalits. She is also an activist who is dedicated to the struggles of tribals in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Through her works, she elaborates the oppression of tribals.
She explained that the tribal community have their own court to resolve social issues and believe in their “social justice system” and do not like interference from others. But they never would never insult women in courts.”
Experts on tribal communities too have echoed Mahasweta Devi’s sentiments. The director of the West Bengal Kheriya Sabar Kalyan Samity, an NGO that works for the welfare of tribal communities, Prashanta Rakshit, explains that though tribal communities have a system of “ witch hunt” and impose penalty, they would never outrage the modesty of their women.
“I have been working for the tribal community for last 30 years and I have never heard of an instance in which a tribal woman was violated by her people. Though, Santhals have a system of identifying a woman as a witch and torturing her, they do not outrage her modesty. I believe there must have been some provocation from outside. The incident must be thoroughly investigated,”he added.