Two of the 13 persons accused in the gangrape of a tribal girl in Chouhatta, in Labhpur block of Birbhum district, are known to be active Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers. The TMC won the Chouhatta panchayat elections uncontested in 2013. One of the party’s elected panchayat members, Ajoy Mondal, was also reportedly present at the “trial” conducted by the tribal court on Monday evening, where the girl was penalised for allegedly marrying a Muslim youth.
The tribal court ordered the Muslim youth to pay a fine of Rs 25,000, while the girl’s family was told to pay Rs 20,000. The girl’s brother, a labourer, said he expressed inability to pay the amount. The village head, Balai Maddi, 50, reportedly gave him a few days to arrange the money. But the same night, the girl was allegedly gangraped by at least 12 men, including Maddi and his sons, reportedly on the orders of the tribal court.
According to sources, Mondal was also a signatory to a document in which the tribal court announced the dissolution of their marriage.
But TMC leaders on Thursday dissociated themselves from the incident. “We cannot enter the tribal court when it is held. It is strictly for tribal people, and they do not permit interference,” said Anubrata Mondal, president of the Birbhum party unit.
Admitting that TMC workers were among those arrested, party general secretary Mukul Roy said, “We did not order for them to be spared. We want them to be punished. Moreover, no political party has any role to play in the tribal justice system.”
“My sister fell in love with a Muslim youth who lives in a nearby village. He came to our village on Monday. In our community, we do not marry girls to Muslim youths. The village head was informed and we were ordered to be present at the trial on Monday afternoon. Both the Muslim youth and my sister were tied to a tree during the trial,” recalled the victim’s brother.
“The village head ordered the Muslim youth to pay a fine of Rs 25,000 and I was told to pay Rs 20,000 as penalty. I am a daily labourer and I have three sisters. It was not possible for me to pay that amount. He gave us a couple of days to arrange the money. The Muslim youth was released after his father handed over the money. The village head told us that our sister would not be released. We returned home at about 7 pm, leaving her behind,” he said.
Later that night, the victim was allegedly taken to a hut and gangraped by at least a dozen men. She returned home on Tuesday morning, but informed her family only on Wednesday. “They threatened her not to tell us about the rape. She remained silent continued…
The assailants then got into the car in which they came and drove off.