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3 Jul 2017

Justice delayed - A birth & a death, bound by trauma - Two stories, same helplessness

Ramashankar and PTI, TT, Patna, July 2: A 15-year-old unwed girl gave birth to a baby in Sitamarhi last night and a father in Patna appealed to chief minister Nitish Kumar to pay for his daughter's last rites today. The two stories have a common thread: Of helplessness families with girls face in a country where the Prime Minister tom-toms schemes such as Selfie with Daughter and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and in a state where the chief minister says he clamped total prohibition to ensure safety of women.
The Sitamarhi girl, a Class X student who became pregnant after a neighbour raped her and who refused to have an abortion till she got justice, delivered a girl at the district sadar hospital.
"Sir, deliver justice for the sake of this newborn," she is learnt to have told Sahiara police station house officer (SHO) Rakesh Kumar over the phone today, enquiring about the action on the complaint she had lodged on May 2 this year against the rapist.
The teenager demanded stern action against the 22-year-old man, a neighbour, who she says is the child's father. Though the girl's father, a farmer, had earlier taken up the matter at a meeting of the village panchayat, the parents of the accused didn't turn up. Then, the girl's family approached the police for justice.
The Sahiara SHO confirmed that the girl had lodged an FIR accusing Dharmendra Kumar of sexually assaulting her.
She didn't disclose her pregnancy to her parents, but they got to know when she complained of stomach pain in school.
The parents took her to a local doctor, who said the girl was pregnant. The parents pressured her to abort but she refused.
The SHO said Dharmendra had been booked under Section 376 (rape) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act, Dharmendra's father Shambhu Mahto, mother Dhukhiya Devi and a minor sister had been charged with abetment of crime.
Sex with a minor - even if consensual - is rape.
Preliminary investigation revealed that Dharmendra had sexually exploited the girl on the pretext of marriage. When he came to know that she was pregnant, he started avoiding her. When the girl's parents tried to contact them, Dharmendra's family misbehaved with her parents.
Police have failed to take any action in the case. The SHO said while Dharmendra and his parents had absconded, his sister had got bail from court. The SHO, however, parried questions on the police's failure to obtain a court order for attaching the property of the accused.
"The accused comes from a well-to-do family. That's why they are not accepting the girl as their bahu (daughter in-law)," said a local resident, who is a teacher in the school where the girl used to study.
She stopped attending classes as the news spread in the village, he added.
The story of the Patna father is similar.
Chanchal Kumari, 23, a Dalit girl from Maner in Patna rural, died on June 22 - almost five years after four youths, Anil, Badal, Ghanshyam and Raj, attacked her and her younger sister with acid at their ancestral house.
Shailesh Paswan, Chanchal's father who is a daily wage labourer, today wrote a letter to chief minister Nitish Kumar - a copy of which was sent to the media - saying he was penniless after his daughter's treatment for the last five years and needed money to perform her shradh (last rites).
Shailesh's daughters, then students of Class XI and Class VIII respectively, were attacked after Chanchal turned down Anil's marriage proposal. The case is still pending in Patna civil court, largely because the doctor who had attended to the two sisters after the acid attack failed to depose before the trial court even after two years of framing of charges against the four accused.
"The youths, who defaced her by throwing acid, are roaming free as if nothing has happened. They have been released on bail," Shailesh had said when his daughter died.

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