Crime Against Women Spirals in the North East
It’s turning out to be a month of shame for the matrilineal tribes in India’s north east. Crimes against the women spiral, detracting from its image as the region where women hold their own in the gender balance.
Two videos, one of them showing a minor being molested by a group of men inside a vehicle and the other of a young woman being mercilessly assaulted by as mob of men, have become ‘show-stoppers’ in these days that have also registered separate incidents of murder, rape and fatwas against women by village authorities in Meghalaya.
Technically, the assault on the young woman, a case of moral policing, happened in Assam-Meghalaya border but as the victim was a Garo woman, the matter was taken up by the Meghalaya State Women’s Commission (MSWC). Vice Chairperson Gamchi Marak, visited the woman’s village, Nabang in Kashikagra, Assam to express support and get a first hand report.
The woman had gone to nearby town Krishnai to shop and was offered a ride back to her village by a non-Garo acquaintance. On the way back, the man went to answer natures call and as they resumed their journey, two men of her tribe on a bike pulled her down from the bike and started assaulting her shouting at her for ‘roaming’ with a non-Garo man.
They were joined by other villagers including women who rained blows on the two. The headman of the village intervened but to no avail. The woman’s husband, called by friends, also arrived on the scene, but he too got a few blows from the violent mob.
“It’s outrageous that people behave like this,” said Marak, the Vice Chair of MSWC. She said that the intervention of the Assam State Women’s Commission had been sought. The Assam police had arrested some of the culprits. “But this is not enough. The barbaric action is condemnable and stringent action is sought,” she said in this case as well as in another case in which a group of men were seen molesting a minor in a vehicle.
In that other incident, also pertaining to Garo Hills, the minor girl, in her early teens, was reportedly made to drink after which the men had started molesting her. The video was posted on the social media by one of the very men who molested her. They were caught immediately only because the video had caught the number plate of one of their two-wheelers which the police used to trace them out later after the complaint was filed.
Earlier in the month, a woman was found murdered in her own home, in Khliehriat, East Jaintia Hills. A day earlier, a 14 year old was kidnapped and raped in the West Khasi Hills. Two government servants working under the State Public Health Engineering Department were arrested for the alleged rape of two minor girls. They allegedly lured the minors with sweets to their work place after office hours.
In the same week, three women were terrorized on the Shillong-Guwahati Highway near Nongpoh when men in a vehicle chased them, pulled out the woman driving the vehicle and reportedly assaulted her. When the women tried to file an FIR the Nongpoh police refused. The women then registered the FIR at the Jorabat Police Station on the border in Assam. The refusal of the Nongpoh Police to register the FIR has been denounced as a matter of great shame.
Meanwhile, in a press statement, the Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO), a popular organization fighting for women, condemned the spurt in crimes against women and minor girls in the State.
The statement signed by its president, Agnes Kharshiing said that these crimes included a dowry death at Pynthor, East Khasi Hills District, of Pooja Prasad, the murder of a woman in Mawshun Village under Pynursla C&RD Block where a woman was burnt to death by her husband, murder of a woman in her residence in Khliehriat, East Khasi Hills District, where her throat was slit . The statement demanded fair and quick investigation, without harassing the families of the victims as is usually the case.
The organization also demanded that the copy of Post Mortem reports should be provided to the family of the deceased by the authorities without delay and should not have them running from pillar to post to get the documents.
At the same time, the CSWO also condemned the frequent ostracization of women and their children by some abusive Traditional heads, mentioning specifically an incident where principals of schools in West Jaintia Hills District, refused to admit the children of Sistina Lamare, of West Jaintia Hills District. As she has filed an FIR against the assault of her child by persons in her village. She had to approach the chairperson SCPCR for intervention.
In another case in a village in Ri Bhoi village Heads of Quinine Village, issued a verbal diktat in a Dorbar (meeting) that no one should buy anything from the shop of a woman from the village as she had refused to seek an apology as demanded by them.
These are forms of terrorising women and children and a violation of article 19 of the Indian Constitution, the CSWO said.
In another incident in West Jaintia Hills, the CSWO statement said, that a family who did not want to give their land to the Village authorities for a park was being threatened with ex-communication and stripped of all facilities and benefits unless they complied. An FIR was filed in this regard by the family but Nartiang Police instead turned the case into breach of peace by both parties, further victimizing the family.
(Linda Chhakchhuak is an Independent Journalist)