Young Hindu Woman Fights off Rapists, Arrested for It
Dr. Richard L. Benkin
In February, Hindu Samhati’s Animitra Chakraborty and I visited several places under the Diamond Harbour police station in West Bengal. Joining us was Jayesh Patel of the United Kingdom and Arati (not real name), an Indian resident. Our intention was to visit friends, communities, and such; but what we found was something more.
We first stopped at the home of 18-year-old Soumya (not real name), who lives with her disabled brother and aged parents in one of her village’s last Hindu homes. Local Muslims have been buying up or seizing Hindu lands and intimidating those who will not cooperate into fleeing the area. Soumya and her family refuse to leave their home. About “six or seven months” before we arrived, area thugs tried to rape Soumya. It was not the first time this petite young woman with a childlike laugh (we had to confirm her age because we thought she was a minor) was assaulted. So she and her disabled brother went to the police seeking justice; but they got none. Local police refused to act or even take her complaint. Frustrated, Soumya’s brother traveled all the way to the state capital of Kolkata and the residence of the Chief Minister Momata Banerjee. Her personal assistant promised to help, and police did arrest the accused; but also released him quickly. Once out, he and his cohorts renewed their threats against the family and Soumya in particular.
Not to give up, the family filed a civil suit and secured an injunction; but the miscreants were able to ignore it without consequence from the police who refused to enforce it. Things grew even tenser, and the threats grew more violent. Soumya’s abusers cut down fruit trees on the property and dried up the family pond where their major source of income, fish, had been raised. Still, the family would not drop the suit. At around 2am on November 7, 2012, a group of men invaded the small home in an attempt to steal the original court papers. (Fortunately, the family made three originals and hid each in different places.) While there, they tried to rape young Soumya who escaped only after her aged mother started screaming and raising a noise that was starting to draw attention. They left without the documents but threatened more violence if the family did not drop the case. The next day, Soumya and her brother went to the local administration, but the latter refused to take any case except that of a simple burglary. So, they again traveled to Kolkata where the police accepted a wider case but have taken no action on it.
Then, in December, her tormentors struck again. They invaded the home and attempted to abduct the young woman. Fortunately, she struggled and fought until others came and the invaders ran off. So, again she went to the police and again filed a charge. Although she had eyewitnesses, the police did not want any evidence. She soon heard back from them. When the police presented this to the accused they denied the allegations. The police then arrested Soumya for filing a false accusation who was out on bail when we met her. Aarti from Mumbai, who helps Indian women start micro-businesses, spent some time with Soumya and told us that regardless of the smiles and brave front, the young woman is hurting and might even be traumatized. When we asked Soumya if she was concerned that talking to us would make for more trouble, she replied, “What more can they do besides kill me?”
Throughout the Diamond Harbour area, we encountered Hindus who complained of attacks, intimidation, and demands by local Muslims that they get out and do so quickly. They told us consistently that Hindu women and girls are afraid to move about because of insulting catcalls, random molestations and grabbing, threats, and the knowledge of what happened to other women. They fear being raped, abducted, or both with no protection from the West Bengal police.
And that is the significant point.
Numerous residents of the area (who requested anonymity) told us that they fear an armed takeover by Muslims—some of them local, some recently arrived from Bangladesh. Muslims parade openly with their extensive arms cache, threatening Hindu residents, and police do nothing about it. Many asked us for “arms” so they could protect themselves “because the police will not.” While none of us are involved with any sort of arms and immediately made that clear whenever we were confronted by it, the fact remains that Diamond Harbour Hindus believe that the police will not protect them.
One group of Diamond Harbour Hindus are in the process of constructing a large Mandir in defiance of threats not to do so and of regular religious desecration of Hindu holy sites that goes unpunished by the police. They told us that they have to post their own guards around the clock to prevent their temple’s desecration.
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