“She was crying and scared. I never thought that would be the last time I was seeing her alive,” said the 15-year-old, recalling the events of July 18, when her 18-year-old friend was allegedly gangraped at a wedding in Kondagaon district of Chhattisgarh. A day later, the 18-year-old killed herself.
With the case of alleged gangrape coming to light over two months after the teenager’s death, on October 6, police registered an FIR under IPC sections 365 (kidnapping) 376D (gangrape), 306 (abetment of suicide) and 506 (criminal intimidation), and arrested six of the seven accused, two of them minors. The body, which was exhumed and a post-mortem procedure done, was buried again on Friday.
The 18-year-old’s parents, farmers who belong to the Gond tribe, told The Indian Express that on July 18, they had left for a wedding, 10 km from their village, leaving behind their five children, including the 18-year-old, their eldest. “She had not shown any interest in coming for the wedding… we didn’t know she would change her mind and come later,” her father said.
Recounting the events of July 18, the 15-year-old said that four of them, including the 18-year-old, had left for the wedding on a two-wheeler. “When we reached, the music and dance had begun, so we started dancing outside and didn’t meet anyone from the family. Later, when we took a break, a group of men cornered us and dragged us into a secluded spot,” she said.
The 15-year-old said that they knew one of the men in the group. “He is from a nearby village… we are all from the same community. My friend and he have known each other since childhood. He was interested in her, but she had turned him down, and he was angry that she was with her other friends,” she said.
The accused then allegedly dragged the 18-year-old into some bushes near the wedding venue. “They threatened to take me along with my friend and told me that if I told anyone, neither of us would be alive,” she recounted.
The 15-year-old said that she and the other two friends waited four hours outside the wedding venue for the teenager to return. “She was finally dropped back by two men who had their faces covered. She was all disheveled, with injuries on her hand and blood on her dress,” she said, adding that she and her friend started walking back to their village in the early hours of July 19.
“On the way, she told me she had been raped by multiple men. She also said he (their acquaintance) told her he would tell everyone what they had done to her. She cried a lot, begged me not to tell anyone about what had happened,” the 15-year-old said.
Around 1.30 pm the following day, with her parents still at the wedding venue, her brothers, 4 and 8 years old, found her hanging from the beam at her house.
“We tried to rush her to hospital (15 km away), but she died on the way,” said her uncle.
Police have so far refused to divulge addresses and other details of the accused, saying that while two of them are minors, they are yet to establish the age of the others, including the 18-year-old’s acquaintance. On Friday, when The Indian Express visited the village, the sarpanch and her husband refused to talk about the incident.
The family alleged that the thana-in-charge had “humiliated” them after the 18-year-old was found dead, and said he would say whatever he wanted to in the FIR. “Since we didn’t know why had killed herself, we agreed, but no FIR was filed,” the girl’s uncle said.
The thana in-charge has been suspended and a departmental inquiry has been initiated against him.
The Bastar IG has also set up a five-member committee under the Additional SP of the district. “We have taken cognisance of the case, registered the FIR and are investigating. Already, six of the accused have been arrested,” IGP Sundarraj P said.
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