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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Justice plea for rape victim in Meghalaya

Justice plea for rape victim in Meghalaya

Shillong, March 28: Former Rajya Sabha MP Robert Kharshiing has petitioned Chief Justice of India, Justice Altamas Kabir, on the alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old in Williamnagar in Meghalaya's East Garo Hills district last year.

"Because we hail from such a remote part of this great country of ours and because it was the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi who said that India lives in its villages, I humbly request you to take up this matter with utmost urgency," Kharshiing said in his petition.

The18-year-old was allegedly gang-raped near the Sacred Heart School at Williamnagar on the night of December 13, 2012.

Around 16 alleged culprits, nine of them juveniles, were picked up by police.

That night, the girl was returning home from the venue of the Simsang festival along with two of her female friends.

While her friends managed to flee, the victim was allegedly gang-raped after she fell down as she tried to run away.

Sources today said the case was brought to the Tura fast-track court, West Garo Hills, on March 4 where charges were framed on March 20 against seven of the accused. Nine of them were minors.

Since the present judge is leaving, the sources said a new judge will be appointed and the next hearing of the case will be held on April 3.

It was reported that the girl has been shifted from Williamnagar to Tura after there were complaints from the girl's parents that family members of the accused used to taunt her.

Recently, East Garo Hills deputy commissioner Vijay Kumar Mantri had said the entire family of the rape victim shifted permanently to Tura "long back" and is at present residing in Tura with the help of the NGOs from Williamnagar in liaison with the social welfare department.

In his petition to Justice Kabir, Kharshiing also mentioned that even after 100 days following the horrific incident, the victim and her parents are still suffering from "victimisation" with the state government taking a "very callous and uncaring attitude" towards both the girl and her parents.

"It seems that one of the rapists is related to a sitting minister, which is why the case is going nowhere," the former MP alleged, adding that the parents are being threatened by surrendered militants so that they keep quiet.

"In the past decade, Meghalaya has seen over 800 rape cases, 500 of which are still pending trial in various courts. Contrary to the popular belief that women have greater control over their lives in matrilineal societies such as in Meghalaya, the condition of women seems to be no different here from the rest of the country," Kharshiing said.

In a state that boasts of women's empowerment — where women inherit property and are seen at the forefront of domestic and public life — 830 rape cases between 2002 and 2012 should have shaken the conscience of the political parties and the administration, and forced them to act, he said.

"Instead, the conviction rate remains awfully low, compensation is hardly awarded and there are only three fast-track courts dealing with rape cases," he said.

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