‘Severity of punishment unprecedented’

While expressing eagerness to return to their village, the family of the 20-year-old tribal woman who was allegedly gang-raped on the instructions of a kangaroo court at Subalpur village in Birbhum earlier this week, also feared ostracism by the community.

Speaking to The Hindu over the telephone on Saturday, one of the brothers of the victim said the family wanted a ‘faisla’ (decision) so that it could return to the village, but expressed concern over whether the villagers would accept them.

“We want to return to the village. We have lived there for many years,” he said.

The brother, who has moved to an adjoining village, said though he is familiar with all those arrested forsexually assaulting his sister, he is most upset with the local headman on whose orders the atrocity was committed.

“His house was very near ours and our family has known him for many years. Only a few months ago, when our goat strayed into someone’s field, we had to pay him compensation,” he said. He had not heard of such a severe punishment awarded to anyone in the village before.

Even though he expressed sorrow over his sister’s condition, the brother also had reservations about his family’s decision to take the matter to the police. This would exacerbate the family’s problems when it returned to the village, he said.

In all, 13 persons including the local headman have been arrested after the incident and remanded in police custody, after the woman registered a complaint at Labhpur police station on Wednesday.  

 Concerns over the family’s return to the village, which has still not come out in support of the woman, have been raised in administrative corners as well.

 State Woman and Child Welfare Minister Shashi Panja who met the victim at Suri Sadar Hospital during the day said the woman was apprehensive about how the villagers would treat her when she returned.

“She has a few apprehensions, including whether she would be accepted once again in society. I have assured her that the government will extend every possible help to ensure her full rehabilitation,” Dr Panja said.

 Meanwhile, a four-member team of forensic experts from the city visited the village and collected samples from the site where the incident allegedly occurred. Commenting on the ongoing investigations, Alok Rajoria, Superintendent of Police, Birbhum, said their focus was on reconstructing the crime. “If other names surface, we will take action against them too,” he said.