Rights NGOs resent nomination by rape accused Meghalaya MLA

Women’s and rights NGOs in matrilineal Meghalaya have resented the nomination of militant-turned-legislator Julius Kitbok Dorphang, accused of raping a 14-year-old girl twice more than a year ago.

The 53-year-old Dorphang, who represents the Mawhati Assembly constituency as an independent MLA, was arrested on January 7 last year in Guwahati after a fortnight of being on the run. Booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), he has been in jail since.

Dorphang’s lawyer told newspersons in Shillong that nomination was filed on his behalf on Saturday. The papers were submitted under provisions of the Representation of People’s (RP) Act that says anyone can contest elections unless convicted, the lawyer said.

The Supreme Court had in July 2013 barred people lodged in jail from contesting elections. But the Parliament amended the RP Act with a section added letting candidates contest elections. The amendment was notified in October 2013.

“It is an uphill task to fight for issues on violation of women’s rights. The law sadly does not have any provisions to bar somebody whose trial is ongoing, perhaps to safeguard those who could be innocent. But he (Dorphang) is not that innocent and what is more disturbing is that people in his constituency are being given the impression that he is a victim of political rivalry and there’s no truth in the case against him,” Angela Rangad, head of civil rights group Thma U Rangli Juki, told The Hindu from Shillong.

‘Can influence probe’

“Rape is a social crime and it is for a POCSO accused to prove his innocence. This so-called lawmaker raped a minor twice, once in a Shillong guesthouse owned by relatives of the state’s Home Minister. There should be stringent laws not allowing such perpetrators of heinous crimes to contest elections, as they may influence investigation,” Agnes Kharshiing, president of Civil Society Women’s Organisation, said.

Dorphang’s nomination, the NGOs said, was an insult to women who have been fighting for their rights. “This is all the more reason why the trial should be fast now, as such people in governance will make laws only to protect themselves, not women and vulnerable children,” Ms. Kharshiing said.

Dorphang was the founder-chairman of the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council before surrendering in 2007.

His arrest had put the spotlight on increasing incidents of crime against women seen as a shame for Meghalaya where the three main tribes — Khasi, Jaintia and Garo — are matrilineal.

Data with the National Crime Records Bureau say Meghalaya reported 452 cases of child rapes between 2001 and 2011. Among the eight north-eastern states, the State was second to Tripura where 457 cases were reported during the period.

Meghalaya police crime records say only 26 rape cases were registered in 2001, increasing gradually to 183 in 2013. The number of cases dipped to 93 in 2015 but 60% of the rape survivors that year were found to be minor girls.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 11:11:19 AM |

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