Six Dalit women, including two minor girls, were allegedly raped by a former gunman of a disbanded private army and two others in Bihar’s Bhojpur district on Wednesday night. The three men are now in police custody. The victims belong to the mushahar caste, who are at the bottom of the economically deprived Mahadalit communities in Bihar.
The main accused, disbanded Ranbir Sena’s Neelnidhi Singh, is already facing 18 criminal cases and was on bail, said district police chief Rajesh Kumar. He said the police had yet to confirm the exact age of the victims, though based on primary inquiry, they are probably between ages 12 and 30.
The medical test reports have confirmed rape.
The incident took place in Kurmuri village under Sikarhatta police station of the district when nine rag-pickers from nearby Dumaria village reached a scrapyard called at Maa Saraswatiji Enterprises to sell the scrap they had collected. Scrapyard owner Neelnidhi Singh, his brother Jayprakash Singh and their associate Guddu Pandit allegedly kept the payment on hold on the excuse that it would take time to arrange the change. The total value of scrap sold by the nine was Rs 1000.
As it was already past 6pm and the team had to walk 8km back to their village, the rag-pickers kept insisting on prompt payment. There were three married women, two girls, two minor girls and two minor boys in the group.
Neelnidhi Singh allegedly flashed a gun at the mushahar women to terrorise them into staying back at the scrapyard on Wednesday night. Guddu Pandit is said to have brought pouches of country liquor and the three reportedly forced the women and girls to drink the alcohol. The two minor boys are reported to have been tied with ropes. Six women and girls, including two minors, were then allegedly raped at an orchard near the thatched scrapyard.
The victims, who came to their full senses by midnight, jumped into a drain to reach an approach road and escape to the Dumaria village. One of the girls, aged around 7, was spared and returned with the victims. One of the victims later reported the matter to Sikarhatta police on Thursday.
Bhojpur police arrested Jaiprakash Singh on Thursday evening. After an overnight search through paddy fields, Neelnidhi Singh and Guddu Pandit were arrested on Friday afternoon. The police have seized the clothes of the accused. A forensic team also went to the scrapyard to examine the scene.
Kurmuri, a village of 4,000 people dominated by upper-caste Bhumihars, is just one of many villages in Bhojpur which has been witnessing recurring caste tension since the killing of former Ranbir Sena chief Barmeshwar Mukhiya in June 2012.
Police chief Kumar said,””We made all three arrests within 24 hours of filing an FIR. The prime accused Neelnidhi is a known offender, having been chargesheeted in over a dozen criminal cases”” The three have been booked for rape and under provisions of the SC/ST Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
District magistrate Pankaj Pal said it was a””very sensitive”” case.””We will now press for speedy trial of the case. All six victims have been given Rs 90,000 each in compensation and will receive the same amount soon after the accused are chargesheeted”” he said.