The Jabalpur High Court has ordered that five members of the Pardhi community from Chouthiya village in Multai district of Madhya Pradesh be included as witnesses in the CBI investigation of the Pardhidhana demolition of 2007. This comes six years after the Pardhis were subjected to arson, loot, eviction, alleged rape and murder and forced to flee Pardhidhana, a locality they had inhabited for decades. They had received ration cards, pattas and money under Indira Awas Yojana to build pucca houses in 1995-96.
“This is a big step forward in the case, because, till now the witnesses included only people from the mob,” said Nandini Rao of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).
WSS, along with People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), released a fact-finding report — A System of Injustice: The Displacement and Impoverishment of Pardhis in Multai, Madhya Pradesh — in Delhi on Saturday.
In 2007, Pardhidhana, a locality in Chouthiya village in Multai, was razed to the ground by a mob of farmers led by local politicians on the back of a rumour that a Kunbi woman was raped by one of the Pardhis.
Bondru Pardhi and his wife Dodel Bai were found murdered and eye witness accounts, including that of their son, stated that the woman was gang-raped before being thrown into a well by four people.
According to the fact-finding report, 10 of the displaced Pardhi women had also given testimonies that they were detained and gang-raped by the police personnel and local gram panchayat politicians.
“Even after they complained of the gang-rape within a few hours, no medical examination was conducted. The results of a later medical examination of the women remain unknown,” adds the report.
Sangeeta, who was allegedly raped, told the press on Saturday, “The CBI grilled us many times on the details of the unmentionable act and also recorded my testimony. What more do they want? Why will I lie? Will any woman lie that something like that happened to her?”
Despite these testimonies, the CBI glossed over rape and murder that had not been included in the charge sheet, said Anupama of PUDR.
“When 10 women are saying they were gang-raped, why is this fact being kept out of the charge sheet and from the proceedings?” asked Professor Uma Chakravarti.
Congress MLA Sukhdev Panse, BJP leaders Raja and Toshan Pawar, former Samajwadi Party MLA Sunilam were among those being probed by the CBI in relation to some of these charges.
Since their eviction, the Pardhis have been forced to beg to make a living in Betul where they are camping, said Anupama. The Pardhis of Chouthiya do not belong to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe category and hence they cannot seek justice or aid under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, she added.
Court orders to include five members of the community as witnesses