Nilima Debbarma, 27
Shikaribari, Khowai District
NILIMA DEBBARMA wanted to see development in her village. So, the 27-year-old tribal from a landless family in Shikaribari decided to contest the panchayat polls in 2010 on a National Conference of Tripura (NCT) ticket.
“Nilima had told us that some CPM cadres were threatening her, asking her to withdraw her nomination,” recalls NCT General Secretary Animesh Debbarma. “She stayed away from her home for security reasons till the last date of nomination withdrawal. But that didn’t prevent her gang-rape and murder.”
According to the FIR, Nilima was returning home from a wedding on 19 February 2010 when she was gang-raped and tortured to death by some drunk troopers belonging to the Tripura State Rifles (TSR) at the house of CPM supporter Asanka Debbarma. The TSR was deployed in Shikaribari because it was considered a militant stronghold. The jawans allegedly took Nilima’s body to a nearby jungle and tried to hang it to make it look as if she had committed suicide. But they were caught in the act by the villagers.
Nilima was staying with her parents after leaving her husband Manoj Debbarma almost five years ago due to domestic violence. Now her mother Nandurani Debbarma takes care of Nilima’s two daughters. “My mother has been killed. I want the guilty to be punished,” says Nilima’s six-year-old daughter Payel as she plays with her four-year-old sister Aisma.
“We have trouble getting two square meals a day. Even after this tragedy, we did not get any government assistance. The chief minister came to visit us but he did not help us, probably because my daughter belonged to an Opposition party. But are we not citizens of India? Who guarantees our security?” asks Nandurani.
The gruesome incident sent shockwaves among the tribal community and forced the state government to order a CBI probe. Three people have been arrested so far.
Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.