Rape victim subjected to harassment, court hands over victim to alleged rapist’s relatives

[ Karyir Riba ]

ROING, 26 Jun: The case of repeated rape and molestation of a minor that had surfaced here in Lower Dibang Valley (LDV) district in March has turned into an imbroglio, subjecting the victim child to more harassment on a daily basis.

On 2 March, a girl who was reported missing on the previous day at the Roing police station was found by the police. The simple-looking case took a major turn when the minor revealed that she had been subjected to sexual abuse by her employer. The child was immediately placed at the child care institute (CCI) here by the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC), and a suo moto case was registered against the alleged rapist, Aka Kalung, by the CWC.

The victim’s medical examination had stated that “there are signs of suggestive penetrative intercourse but no signs of suggestive recent forceful vaginal or anal intercourse,” and her age determination test suggested that she is in between 12 and 15 years of age, proving that she is a minor.

As reported earlier, the alleged accused had fled from the district after learning that the girl had made rape allegations against him. He had managed to get an interim bail from the high court even before the registration of the case.

As per police reports, Kalung was arrested by the police, and on 20 April a chargesheet was filed against him. Kalung has been out on bail since.

According to CCI chairperson Desai Linggi, “Instead of punishing her rapist, it seems like everyone is trying to fend for him and trying to protect him. The already traumatized child is being subjected to continuous harassment by the court and the family of the accused.”

She added that the continuous mental torture is taking a toll on the child as well as the CCI workers, and that the support that the alleged rapist is getting from the judicial system is making it seem as if Kalung had been raped by the child and he was the victim.

“He is roaming around freely, while the traumatized child still gets petrified when he is mentioned,” she said.

The turn of events related to the case, especially with regard to the judiciary system, has been very ironic.

First of all, when the victim was taken to the district court for recording her statement in front of the CJM, as per reports, the CCI member who had accompanied the child was asked to leave the room. Linggi informed that, according to the JJ Act and 164 CRPC, a confidante should have been allowed to be with the child during the time.

Again, when the child came out of the room after giving her statement, she being a child, said that the person who had spoken to her was a friend of her ‘uncle’ (alleged rapist).

The most recent development in the case is that the sessions court in Tezu (Lohit) has directed the CCI to hand over the victim to one Pinky Debnath, who has been identified as her local guardian by the court. The irony here is that this woman is the sister-in-law of Aka Kalung, the alleged rapist.

Moreover, the sessions court has also mentioned that “the said victim child who is having a biological father and a local guardian cannot be treated as a child who needs care and protection. Hence, the child be handed over by the CCI.”

As per sources, the biological father of the victim has been living with the alleged rapist in his house ever since the start of the case, when he arrived from Nepal.

Linggi said that the child does not trust her father at all and doesn’t want to leave the CCI. “How can I force the girl to leave when she doesn’t feel secure, and how can I blindly hand her over to these people, knowing that they do not want any good for her, just because the court has said so?” she asked.

She expressed doubt over the security of the victim and said that family members of the rape accused come to the CCI whenever they wish to, and every time they do so, the already disturbed child gets panicked.

To this, LDV SP JK Lego said that if a formal complaint is made with the police through the CWC, action would be taken and the family would be warned against such unprecedented visits to the CCI.

According to the victim, she was brought to India from Nepal when she was very little. All these years, she served as a domestic help for Kalung and his family. She said that she was sexually abused since the beginning and had been repeatedly raped all these years. She describes her sexual ordeal in graphic detail, and all that she was subjected to, including sodomy. “As soon as aunty left for duty, uncle used to start abusing me. If I did not comply, he used to beat me,” she said. She also said that her abuser used to take her urine (probably for pregnancy tests) and also made her take some tablets.

She also revealed that it was her second attempt at running away from her abuser. The first time, she was returned to her abuser unknowingly by the person at whose house she had taken shelter. She also revealed that, before she fled the second time, she had attempted suicide but did not succeed in taking her life.

All these revelations lead to several questions over our judiciary system. Why wasn’t Kalung booked for child labour or under the RTE Act? Also, since the child was brought to India from Nepal as a very little girl, does this not qualify as a case of international human trafficking?

Protection Officer Napi Meto from the DCPU said, “As per the JJ Act, since the child was placed at the CCI by the CWC, any handing over of the child to whomever should be done through the CWC. If the CWC has ordered for the placement of the child at the CCI and some other agency has ordered for her release from the CCI, the order itself is contradicting.”

Currently, notification from the government regarding appointment of members of the CWC is still pending. All the former members had resigned a month ago.

The fate of the case will be decided on Tuesday, when the girl will again be produced at the sessions court in Tezu. CCI chairman Linggi said, “Our work at the CCI is to provide shelter, protection, counselling, education, and to monitor the mental and physical status of any child brought here. We do not have the facilities or the fund to run around courts, which is not our work. But we are being subjected to this harassment simply for trying to get justice for this poor child. We had trusted the judiciary system, but now we feel like we had wrongly done so.”

She further said that she and her team anticipate intervention from the Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

“We will fight as far as we can for justice for this child and hope that her abuser is punished,” she said.