A series of rape cases including an alleged case of trafficking of minor girls that has rocked Meghalaya in the past three weeks or more has so far landed 12 persons including an MLA in jail, with the police looking for more people involved in them. Meanwhile, several NGOs and civil society groups of Shillong have called for a protest rally in the state capital on Wednesday against the incidents.
While Independent MLA Julius Kitbok Dorphang was arrested in Guwahati on Friday night in connection with the Shillong rape and trafficking case first registered on December 16, the other seven arrested so far in this case includes a female waiter of a guest house allegedly owned by a senior minister in the Congress-led government in the state.
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“It appears to be a huge racket involved in trafficking of girls. This 14-year old girl in fact was brought to Shillong from a poor family in the East Khasi Hills district by a woman of her village, who handed her over to a woman called Mamoni Parveen, who first made her work at her house, and then sent her to different guest houses. It was only after the victim girl picked up courage to report that the racket is slowly getting exposed,” Meena Kharkongor, chairperson of the Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) said.
Kharkongor also said names of some important persons were also likely to crop up if a thorough investigation was carried out. “There is every likelihood of more girls being trafficked in the state by some people taking advantage of their poverty and ignorance,” she said.
“While one accused in rape and assault of the minor girl is an MLA, one NGO has also pointed fingers at a senior minister by alleging that one of the two guest houses where the girl was forcibly sent belonged to the minister’s kin,” she told The Indian Express from Shillong.
While the Meghalaya SCPCR has filed two FIRs in connection with the case, the Shillong-based Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) has filed at least three FIRs so far. The NGO has reportedly named the owners of a private guest house said to be owned by a senior minister’s son. Some employees of the guest house are also among the eight persons arrested so far.
“The girl, who had read only up to Class III, has been so traumatised and scared that she obviously cannot remember and recall names of all the persons who had assaulted her over a period of time. But despite that she has been able to described some persons and also recognise some,” Kharkongor said.
A former militant, Dorphang, who became MLA in 2013, was hiding since the police had slammed Section 366 (A) of the IPC, Section 3 (a)/4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) and Section 5 of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA) against him. A Shillong court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him on Wednesday.
Series of rapes:
Meghalaya has witnessed a series of rapes in the past couple of weeks, with the SCPCR chairperson describing it as “sad” and “alarming.” While gang rape of a 17-year-old girl was reported from Mawryngkneng in East Khasi Hills district, a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped by three persons in a similar way in South West Khasi Hills district, both incidents occurring on January 1.
The police have arrested six persons in connection with the Mawryngkneng incident. They included a younger brother of the village headman. Three persons including a woman have been named in the other incident that occurred in Upper New Nongstoin.
Police have also registered two other rape cases – both in the Garo Hills region that comprise western Meghalaya – one occurring on December 15, the other on December 24. While one Hamarit R Marak has been arrested for allegedly raping minor sister-in-law at Allagre Rongram in West Garo Hills district on December 15, four persons have been arrested in connection with the other incident.