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Victim reminds Guwahatians of their bystander apathy

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  25 July 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Laxmi to drag accused to SC

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 24: Laxmi Orang feels that she has been denied justice. She is now ready to drag the accused to the Supreme Court of India to bring them to justice.

One has a flashback of the infamous November 24, 2007 Beltola incident in Guwahati as soon as one hears the me 'Laxmi Orang'. The incident proved in no uncertain terms that bystander apathy gripped Guwahati severely.

Talking to the media at Guwahati Press Club on Monday, Orang said: “On 24 November, 2007, when I was barely 16 years old, I had come down to Guwahati from my home in Biswath to march with many others from our community to demand Scheduled Tribe Status to be accorded to the Adivasi community in Assam. On that fateful afternoon, suddenly violence broke out and political goons attacked us. Many of our compatriots were brutally beaten up. The women were molested and raped. Several people had died. As I ran for my life, a group of goons attacked me and I was stripped ked and sexually assaulted in front of hundreds of people in broad daylight at Beltola in Guwahari. What I had faced needs no recounting to the people of Assam and the media as those images of the assault on me remain deeply embedded in the memory of the people of Assam.”

Orang said: “The Congress government did precious little to ensure justice to me. The BJP also did nothing to punish the culprits. Rather the incident has been politicized.”

“The suo motu case (1540/07) to this effect was registered in Dispur PS. Identifying the culprits from the photos and videos, the police arrested four perpetrators — Prasenjit Chakraborty, Sandip Chakdar, ni Gopal Biswas and Ratul Barman. The investigating officer also seized a CD containing incrimiting evidence of the digital images of the accused while they were assaulting me. A cover up, however, was started by the Assam Police right from the beginning. It was mandatory that I was medically examined specifically for sexual assault or molestation, but no such medical examition was done. It was mandatory for recording of my statement before a judicial magistrate immediately after the assault under Section 164 of Crimil Procedure Code. This was not done,” Orang said, and added: “It was also incumbent upon the investigating officer to arrange for test identification parades in jail to identify the accused in presence of a judicial magistrate. No test identification parade was, however, carried out. The digital images of the assault were to be sent to the Forensic Laboratory for authentication. Even this was not done. A charge sheet was filed against these four accused on February 27, 2008, and it was initially committed to the Sessions Court for trial. On March 10, 2011, the District Sessions Court dropped the charge of Section 376 because there was no evidence.”

Orang said that the case had been sent back to be tried by the Court of the Special Magistrate, Kamrup. “On February 7, 2015, my statement was filly recorded by the court nearly seven-and-a-half years after the incident. Main accused Prasenjit Chakraborty remained absent from the proceedings on that day, possibly to avoid being identified by me. On August 9, 2016, the Court of the Special Magistrate, Kamrup, quietly acquitted all the four accused but I was not informed nor was the acquittal reported in the media.”

Orang further said: “The State Government didn't appeal to this acquittal, which it should have done within 90 days. It was only when the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Unified People’s Movement (UPM) informed me of the acquittal this month that I became aware of it. The main accused, Prasenjit Chakraborty, has been involved in more cases of molestations but for inexplicable reasons, the Assam Police continues to protect him. We have decided to fight this denial of justice through a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, seeking reinvestigation and retrial. I appeal to every jourlist who possesses photographs and videos of the 24 November 2007 violence against the Adivasis in Guwahati to extend their help and give us these images and videos as evidence that we will take forward for a proper investigation and trial.”

Meanwhile UCM chairperson Nilim Dutta, who was also present at the press meet, said: “The accused got off scot-free due to negligence on the part of the police. We want justice to Laxmi Orang.”

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