Pinky Tripura, 22, & Rakhimala Tripura, 22Takka Tulsi, South Tripura District
COUSINS RAKHIMALA Tripura and Pinky Tripura, both aged 22, are neighbours in Takka Tulsi village. Ever since her husband Sanjit Tripura passed away last year in an epidemic, Rakhimala has been brewing country liquor and selling it to make ends meet and feed her two kids. She also works as a daily wager under MGNREGA. On the other hand, Pinky left her husband Ananta Tripura because he used to torture her. But she could never muster the courage to ask for a divorce as he was known in the village as a rogue Left Front cadre. Pinky has to feed three kids. According to the FIR, a group of six tribals led by Ananta caught hold of Pinky and Rakhimala on the evening of 20 March, beat them up and dragged them to the house of CPM panchayat member Bratalaxmi Tripura. There, the cousins were tortured again and stripped. “Ananta was angry that I had left him because of his daily torture,” says Pinky. “This group had tried to harass us before as well. Perhaps they were angry because a few months ago, we went to attend a Congress rally in Agartala. We were warned of dire consequences if we mingled with the opposition party.” Pinky claims to have told this to the police, but it finds no mention in the FIR. Later, the cousins were taken to a jungle, where they were allegedly gang-raped through the night. “At dawn, we found the girls in a battered condition, with almost no clothes on their body. It was evident that they were raped,” says a villager on condition of anonymity. The victims claim the cops were uncooperative. When asked about the delay in registering the case, South Tripura SP Arjun Debbarma says, “There was no delay. We have taken prompt action and apprehended the accused.” Two of the accused, Nripendra and Jitendra, are sons of local CPM leaders. “These youths are a terror in our area. Since they are CPM cadres, they get away with anything,” says Sindhuram Tripura, a local villager. Meanwhile, the Congress had upped the ante against the CPM and released visuals of an interview in which the tribal girls alleged that state Wildlife and Forest Minister Jitendra Chaudhury had offered them bribes, asking them to withdraw their case. “On 28 March, Jitendra Chaudhury visited us. He offered us a job, a house and Rs 1 lakh each and asked us to withdraw our case. He also hinted that if we don’t heed him, we might have to face trouble. Initially, we were scared. But later we told him that we have already lost our dignity and now we want justice,” says Rakhimala. However, Chaudhury denied the allegation and blamed the Congress for playing politics. The locals have claimed that the CPM had organised rallies asking for the release of its cadres and even alleged that the victims were running a sex racket. “They were beaten up because the villagers were angry. The allegation of rape has been framed by the Congress. These girls were involved in immoral activities,” CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar reportedly told the media in Agartala. Pinky retorts: “For the sake of argument, let’s say we are prostitutes. Does that give them the right to rape us? Are the CPM leaders trying to justify what their cadres did?” Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka. .
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