A 22-year-old woman is critical after being allegedly gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of village elders in India’s eastern state of West Bengal, reports say.
The elders meted out the rape as punishment for the woman’s involvement with a man from another community. The 13 men involved in ordering the punishment and in the rape have been arrested, reports said.
“It’s horrific. They (rapists) are all our neighbours and I call some of them as kaka (uncle) and some others as dada (elder brother) or bhai (brother),” said a report in The Hindustan Times newspaper, quoting the woman.
The elders, who form what is known locally as “salishi sabha” (Greivance Committee), spelt out the punishment though they do not have any status under the Indian legal system.
Such illegal ‘kangaroo’ courts prevail in several parts of rural India and have a reputation for being ultra-conservative and ruthless in dealing with anyone who defies social mores and customs.
According to reports on Thursday, the rape occurred earlier this week at Subalpur village in Birbhum district, some 200km from the provincial capital Kolkata.
The purported offence was committed when the man from another community was seen at the woman’s house. The village chief and his associates reportedly asked them to pay a fine of Rs 25,000 ($400) each for the “indiscretion”.
Unable to pay fine
While the man was able to pay the fine, the woman’s family was unable to do so, reports said. The woman, on the orders of the kangaroo court, was forcibly taken away and reportedly raped through the night before being sent back home the next morning.
The family complained to the police who arrested the 13 and then helped the girl to hospital in a critical condition, reports said.
"Prima facie, she was gang-raped and we have rounded up 13 persons," said agencies, quoting Prashanta Chowdhury, Assistant Superintendent of Police.
West Bengal recently witnessed another incident in which a woman was raped twice by the same gang and then set on fire, causing a massive uproar across the state.
Some four years earlier, in a similar incident, a young tribal girl was paraded naked in the same district for her alleged affair with a boy from a different community, again sparking huge protests.
The state, under the rule of Trinamool Congress, an offshoot of the Congress, has been in the spotlight for a series of rapes in the last two years. West Bengal topped states in crimes against women in 2011 and 2012, reports said, quoting data from the National Crime Records Bureau.