BY SUCHANDANA GUPTA – PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA
BETUL (MP): Imarti Bai (50) was shot dead not just for protesting against the rape of her daughter by a local goon. The tribal labourer woman from this dusty, nondescript small town in south Madhya Pradesh was fighting a war for her daughter’s dignity against a well-organized gang of human traffickers while the police and district administration turned a deaf ear to her repeated calls for help. On February 10, Imarti’s daughter was allegedly raped by a gangster in the Majhinagar slum area where she lived on the outskirts of Betul district HQ, 180km south of Bhopal. The hoodlum, Rajesh Harore (32) with the help of a woman accomplice Rani Yadav, forced the 15-year-old girl on his bike and took her to a shanty where he allegedly raped her. The area’s 1,200 or so residents watched the girl’s abduction but none protested or tried to save the minor, a student of class VIII.
In this area, no one raises a voice against Rajesh Harore – a notorious land grabber and money lender. But Imarti Bai decided to fight back and went to the police. A case was registered under sections 376 (rape), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 506 (criminal intimidation) IPC. Imarti Bai, the tribal labourer who tried to fight for justice after her daughter was raped, was shot dead on the night of March 23, when the rape accused Rajesh Harore returned with his gang to silence her. One of them – Mantu Yadav – shot Imarti dead in front of her family.
But this is more than a case of rape followed by a revenge killing. A mother’s fear that her daughter would be kidnapped and sold into the flesh trade drove Imarti Bai. Her fear had its roots in 2006 when Imarti’s eldest daughter went for a trip to Vaishno Devi and did not return the next five years. “When our second daughter was raped by Rajesh Harore, Imarti was terrified that this girl too would be sold into the flesh trade,” recounts her husband Shyam Uike. “My eldest daughter worked as a labourer. But one day, our neighbour Rani Yadav said she wanted to take her for a visit to Vaishno Devi. We paid Rs 6,000 for the trip. But my daughter landed in a brothel in Sonkatch near Indore. She was sold for Rs 40,000.”
They came to know of the incident last year when the girl returned . “The same Rani Yadav started targeting my second girl who was raped by Harore because she refused to join prostitution.” Shyam Uike said Harore along with the family of Mantu and Rani Yadav ran a network of human traffickers. Shyam’s claim was supported by the ward’s councillor Ramki Bai Uike.
“After the rape case was registered, Harore came to me asking if the police could be pressured and the matter resolved,” Ramki Bai Uike said. “I told him my work was the area’s development and not protection of criminals.” The BJP Mahila Morcha‘s local secretary Asha Nigam added,”They are a gang of human traffickers. Girls from poor tribal families are raped and their reputation marred.”
Even though her party is ruling the state, Nigam said, “The police and administration is extremely lackadaisical and inefficient. They refuse to work till a phone call comes from Bhopal. And poor tribal girls are left to their fate at the hands of hoodlums.”
Speaking to TOI, the 15-year-old rape survivor said, “My mother was killed because she lodged a complaint of rape against Harore and named Rani Yadav in the FIR. The accused even attempted to burn down our house after which we shifted to the the other side of the town.”
After registering the rape case against Harore, Imarti Bai went to the local police station for protection. But Gun Chowki outpost told her to take her complaint to the Kotwali police station. Here, the police referred her to the SC/ST police station. This continued for weeks as she was shunted from one cop station to the other. On March 20, she went with a written appeal for protection to the district collector’s public hearing. District collector saidrecalled, ” We forwarded her letter to the superintendent of police that same evening.”
This is more than a story about trafficking of women. It is also a disturbing glimpse at the not-so-shining India where marginalised groups like tribals are exploited in all forms. More than six decades after India’s independence, their situation should have been much better. It’s not. We have stopped affirmation action for them with reservations. That’s not sufficient. Unless there is strong deterrent action in cases of this kind, the mindset that views the marginalised as lesser citizens will continue to thrive. And that would be a severe indictment of us as a nation, because a civilised society is really judged by how it treats the underprivileged.
SOURCE: PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA
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