A former officer-in-charge of a police station in Assam has been chargesheeted for refusing to register an FIR (first information report) of a woman who was allegedly gangraped by army personnel seven years ago.
The chargesheet against Dhananjay Kumar Das, the then officer-in-charge of a police station at Kokrajhar in western Assam, came four years after the CID was tasked with probing the incident.
In her statement to the magistrate, the victim had alleged that three to five army personnel in civil clothes arrived at her house in Kokrajhar's Tharaibari village on 20 April, 2011, assaulted and raped her. Her husband, who arrived a few hours after the accused had left, informed the police about the crime later the same day. He took his wife to the police station for an FIR as well.
However, it took a week for a case to be registered, time in which civil society groups got involved and staged a dharna demanding swift justice. Days later, a medical examination report confirmed rape and injury as alleged by the victim.
But even after the FIR was registered, the case didn't progress further. On 2 February, 2012, the chief judicial magistrate of Kokrajhar, CB Gogoi, passed an order saying the investigating officer caused "undue delay" in submitting the report, and urged senior officers to supervise the probe.
The tardy pace in which the investigation was progressing prompted some NGOs to highlight the matter before the state women's commission and the Union home minister, but again to not much avail.
Intervention by State Police Accountability Commission
It was not until the Boro Women's Justice Forum decided to knock on the door of the State Police Accountability Commission that police officials in Kokrajhar came under the scanner for dereliction of duty. The subsequent order passed by the commission to the director general of police on 9 October, 2013, not only came down heavily on the shoddy probe but also recommended departmental action against superintendent of police PK Dutta, deputy superintendent AS Laskar, sub-inspector Sunil Kumar Das and officer-in-charge Dhananjay Kumar Das.
"The officer-in-charge is primarily responsible for non-registration of the case. But the then superintendent of police is equally accountable for not registering the case as well as for initiation of the case for detection of the crime. The offences were of a serious nature considering the dignity of a woman was assaulted. The police inaction only aided in protecting the offenders," said the eight-page report, adding, "It seems like the police is conniving to shield the perpetrators of the crime."
The commission was of the firm opinion that the case ought to be "reopened and reinvestigated" afresh since the culprits could not be apprehended. The report suggested that the photo identity cards of the army personnel posted at the Kokrajhar camp should be gathered and shown to the victim, and the vehicle used during the incident should also be identified from the camp's administrative records.
Meanwhile, CID officials are tight-lipped over whether additional chargesheets would be submitted against the other officials mentioned in the report. An additional director general of police claimed on condition of anonymity that the recommendation for reinvestigation of the case was yet to be accepted by the government.
Victims waiting for justice
However, very few rape victims even get the opportunity to be heard. Many of them are too scared to even approach the police, while many others are threatened to keep things hushed. At times, civil society organisations have stepped in to stage demonstrations and blockades demanding action following sexual crimes. Such cases are found more in the remote villages along the India-Bhutan border, where villages are still bereft of roads, schools, electricity.
"There is no dearth of such cases in the North East, but justice continues to elude most cases. In 1997, five minors were raped after being paraded naked by security forces at Sarubhera near Tamulpur. There are also many cases of women giving birth to children after being raped," said Anjali Daimari, president of the Boro Women Justice Forum.
Daimary's opinion is corroborated by other social activists and occasional reports in the regional media. One such report published in The Sentinel on 12 September, 2011, mentions a deaf and mute Bodo woman who was allegedly gangraped by jawans of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) at No-1 Sonapur village in Kokrajhar. The report quotes president of the Bodo Samaj, RN Boro, as saying that such cases were frequent but there is no action against the guilty.
In any counter-insurgency operation, security forces employ a range of tactics to gain an upper hand of the situation, drive the rebels on the back-foot, and if possible, compel them to a truce. This has continued for years, across different states and national boundaries, and at times, even following inhuman means and gross violation of human rights.
For the police, the benefits weigh higher if a case of rape could be suppressed. "Such a case could come under scrutiny from different agencies and departments. And then, there will be pressure to produce results with the limited resources at your disposal, which could be very difficult sometimes," said a police official who had served in Kokrajhar.
Other officials claimed that there have been instances when the army has refused to cooperate with the investigation or allow personnel whose names had surfaced in FIRs to be questioned.
The author is a senior Guwahati-based journalist and author of the book 'Rendezvous With Rebels: Journey to Meet India’s Most Wanted Men'
Updated Date: Apr 25, 2018 11:36 AM