A recent case of gang-rape in Meghalaya has had a very disturbing turn, where the victim was not only encouraged to reconcile with the culprits but to avoid exercising her legal right against them as well. The honorable advisers were shockingly members and post holders of the Dorbar, the traditional institution of the Khasis, who were motivated by their call for peace and harmony amongst the people of the village than being concerned about justice and protection of a woman who was sexually violated by a group of men. Below is the translation of the letter she has submitted to the State Commission of Protection of Child Rights, Meghalaya.
Date: 18th March 2017.
Subject: Clarity on the press report and speeches made by The Sordar, Mawryngkneng Villagae, Mr. Peter P. Lawai.
This is to notify you that on the 1st of January 2017, I was raped by six men. I was able to escape them on the 2nd of January morning and reach home. My sister/brother called the Sordar to inform him of what had transpired. The Sordar came to my sister/brother’s house at about 6 PM and asked if I knew the rapists and along with him we immediately went in search for them. We found two and made calls to the others. Since my family and I had trusted the Sordar, we were under the assumption that he would inform the police and get them arrested.
However, the Sordar instead took me to the dorbar of Mawmang dong and there we met the Rangbah dong, Goldenstar Mukhim, who was the brother of one of the rapists, Requester Mukhim. Five of the other culprits were also there.
The Sordar scolded me instead and asked why I was roaming about at night and accused that I had gone with the rapists and also that I had consumed some alcohol.
At the meeting, the Sordar said that he had brought together both sides in order to ascertain what had happened. All the rapists present confessed to having committed the crime. The Sordar scolded me instead and asked why I was roaming about at night and accused that I had gone with the rapists and also that I had consumed some alcohol. He even carried a stick and threatened me and the rapists with physical violence if we did not speak the truth, I was shocked. Afterwards, he asked us to appease each other since, “all of us were at fault” and asked if we didn’t want to live in peace as neighbours and as fellow villagers he also asked if I get the rapists arrested, whether I would have money to pursue the case, I confessed that we did not have any money and requested the Sordar to still ensure the arrest was made. He continued saying that even if they were arrested, they would be out in three months or at the most a year. He asked me to aboard the FIR, to take care of myself and said that he would ask the rapists to pay Rs. 1000 each to me. The Rangbah dong told us to collect the money from his house the following morning and also advised us to not declare that I was raped, but that it was a mutual and consensual sexual engagement between me and my rapists. He told me not to go to a government hospital, but to a private one and to produce the reports to him and to let him know if I need some financial assistance.
When I had gone to Woodland Hospital on the 3rd of January 2017, they did not allow me to do a urine test without an FIR because we told them it was a rape case. We communicated the same to the Sordar who told us to come back to the village and that we’d have another meeting at night and not during the day so that it would remain confidential. Before returning to the village, we went to Behtany Hospital Shillong, but we were denied treatment even there. At 8PM on the 3rd of January 2017, we had a meeting in the Rangbah dong’s house and even at this time we still trusted the Sordar and expected him to help us with the FIR.
The Sordar kept on requesting me to make peace.
On this evening, the six rapists along with their families were there and their parents had asked for forgiveness from us. My family still insisted on the arrest, whenever I spoke, the Sordar made me stand even though I was in pain. The Sordar kept on requesting me to make peace. On seeing that we were adamant about getting the rapists arrested, the Sordar asked them to leave while asking us to wait. My family and I went on our own to the police station where we found the Rangbah dong and the Sordar sitting by the fire with the police. We thought that the Sordar had filed the FIR for us and ended up sitting at police station for an hour without getting any direction to do anything from anybody. The Sordar and the Rangbah dong left after they had written my name along with the names of my rapists on a sheet of paper which they had given to the police. After a while the police took me to the PHC to get the medical examination done till 1 AM.
After this incident, people in my village have started ignoring me and my family and no longer speak to us either.
My family had also shared what had happened with my aunt, Meisan Bell, in the morning on 4th January 2017 and with her we had gone to the police station, the Sordar was also present and Meisan Bell asked if the FIR was filed and since he said no, Meisan Bell wrote the FIR for us and it was signed by my father.
After this incident, people in my village have started ignoring me and my family and no longer speak to us either. The celebration in the village and the holding of a public meeting on the day that the Sordar got out from jail frightened my family and I. It is devastating to know that on that meeting the Sordar accused my family and I of many things and inspired the people to antagonize us and support him. There were also people at the meeting who demanded that we should be chased out of the village. I am devastated that this is what confronts us in our quest for justice and our rights.
I share with you this information of what had happened with the hope that you would render speedy address to this crime and help me and my family in this fight. Your presence and support gives us great strength.
NAME OF THE VICTIM