A visit to Mosimpur, the village in Bihar’s Patna district where a Dalit woman was allegedly stripped, beaten up and urinated upon by a moneylender, his son and others, reveals how her trauma is linked closely with a network of private moneylenders running what locals refer to as a ‘Goonda Bank’.
The woman, in her 30s, told The Hindu that her husband had borrowed ₹1,500 from the accused Pramod Singh two years ago. “On September 22, the moneylender’s wife stopped me when I was returning home. She threatened me with dire consequences if the money, along with the interest, was not returned soon,” the victim said. A day later, she was assaulted by Mr. Singh, his son, and three to four other unidentified persons.
High interest rates
Bijli Das, a relative of the victim who lives in the village, dominated by the Yadav community, said, “Goonda Banks here hold the village in their clutches. They lend to the poor at a high interest rate.”
He added, “If they give you ₹500, then they’ll levy an interest of ₹50 a month. Sometimes, small amounts like ₹1,000 swell up to ₹10,000 if the interest is not paid on time. If a borrower is unable to repay, his house is forcibly registered in the moneylender’s name.”
Mr. Das said the Goonda Banks don’t keep written records.
Following the assault, in which she sustained injuries on her head, thighs, and other body parts, the victim was admitted to a primary health centre.
The woman, who works as a cook in a government school in the village, was discharged on Sunday with six stitches on her forehead. Her husband works as a mason. The couple live with their four children in a dilapidated house.
The local police have registered a case against the main accused, Mr. Singh, his son Anshu Singh, and other unidentified persons under the relevant Indian Penal Code sections and sections under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention and Atrocities) Act.
“Pramod Singh, the main accused, has been arrested. However, his son and four others are still absconding,” Syed Imran Masood, Superintendent of Police (Patna Rural), said.
He added, “We have so far not found any evidence that suggests that the victim was stripped and urinated upon. However, if we find the evidence, action will be taken. Primary investigation has revealed that the incident was related to a dispute over money lending.”
Avinash Ranjan, Khusrupur’s Block Welfare Officer, said ₹2 lakh would be given to the woman under the provisions of the SC/ST Act. Half the amount was transferred to her account on Tuesday, an official said.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday took suo motu cognisance of the case, saying it was a clear case of violation of human rights. “The incident is indicative of the free will with which perpetrators acted without a fear of law, which is a matter of concern,” it said, calling for a detailed report within four weeks.