PUDR Press Statement on Sexual Assault by CRPF Personnel on a Woman in Odisha

August 14, 2012

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS (PUDR)

Press Statement

12th August 2012

PUDR condemns growing incidents of sexual assault by CRPF personnel on young women in Paikmal block of Bargarh district in Odisha. On July 24, a few CRPF personnel placed in the same block assaulted a 20-year-old woman of the Vindhyabasini colony of Paikmal. The jawans of CRPF accosted her as she was collecting water from the tube-well, and asked her to go with them to the forest nearby for which they offered her money. When she refused, she was dragged. On resisting, she was kicked, marks of which are still on her body. She somehow managed to outwit them, and return to the village where she narrated the incident to villagers present. In the evening the villagers decided in a meeting to lodge a complaint with the local police. Initially the thana-in–charge and the SDPO of Padampur refused to lodge a FIR against CRPF on the pretext that it required the permission of SP Barhah. It was only after when 100-150 villagers gathered and put pressure that the local police was forced to register the complaint again the CRPF personnel. The local police was even reluctant to give a copy of the FIR to the complainant.

The next day, the CRPF Commandant from Nuapada, visited the victim at her house on the pretext of conducting a departmental enquiry into the incident. He was accompanied by 50-60 jawans of CRPF and the thana-in-charge. The jawans had cordoned the victim’s house. There were no women police officers when he spoke to the victim. He explicitly asked her to withdraw the police complaint as she would be unable to pursue a long-drawn legal battle herself. Such intimidation of the woman by the CRPF commandant is condemnable. Instead of giving justice to the woman, the efforts are geared at protecting the accused. A complaint has been lodged by the woman at the State Womens’ Commission on August 1.

According to a local journalist the incidence of misbehaving with local women by CRPF jawans is quite rampant. These jawans lure women by throwing currency notes on them in a lewd manner and also lecherously stare at them when these women bathe in the nearby check dam. As a consequence, girls and women of this village are scared of going to the check dam for bathing. Importantly, this is not the first case; many such allegations have come in the recent months from other villages of Paikmal and Khaprakhol Blocks. Such incidents draw attention to the intimidation and vulnerability that people, especially women face in areas where security forces have been posted to ostensibly tackle Maoism.

Paikmal in Bargarh district of Odisha, is in the foothills of the Gandhamardan mountain range of western Odisha. Paikmal has been part of the anti-BALCO movement of the late 1980s. Again in the last few years NALCO, setting its eyes on the Gandhamardan hills again for bauxite mining, has agitated the people of this region. To suppress the agitation and resistance to mining by the people, the government has unleashed the paramilitary forces on the people. Murder of two activists in fake encounters in December 2010, is an instance of that. In the apparent bid to fight Maoists, the CRPF has helped the state suppress the people’s resistance to the mining of Gandhamardan hills for bauxite. The result is routine harassment and interruption of all activities of the local people and the total lack of safety for women in their daily tasks.

While condemning the sexual assault by the CRPF personnel on the young woman, PUDR demands the following:

– The local police should immediately initiate legal action against the erring jawans and render all possible help to the woman in the legal fight. The local police should protect the innocent and not the culprits; the local police should not allow itself to be partisan, whatever the difficulty.

– Justice should be secured immediately to the woman.

– The State Women’s Commission should be serious about the assurances it has given to the woman and follow up on the case in the interest of the woman.

– The government should withdraw all para-military and security forces forthwith to ensure that such acts are not repeated.

Preeti Chauhan and Paramjeet Singh

(Secretaries)