She Was Molested By Hundreds of Men: 3 Questions Remain
In January 2011, Sunita Murmu, a 15- year-old girl from from a village in West Bengal was awarded The Bravery Award by the Indian Prime Minister at the Republic Day parade in the country’s capital.
Sunita Murmu’s story might have never come to light if it was not for the mobile video clips that had been circulating of the terrible atrocity that had been inflicted on her.
Sunita was in love with another teenage boy, a relationship that the village community did not approve of. As a form of punishment they stripped her down and walked her through the village with men pouncing on her and molesting her all the way. In a bid to escape her persecutors Sunita ran across fields and forests — a total of 8 kilometers covering 3-4 villages. And every time she approached another village she did not find a rescuer. What she found was more persecutors! The men of all the villages joined in, clapping, laughing and beating drums, and in the end through a 11 hour ordeal she had been mauled and molested by hundreds of men.
Sunita’s family kept quiet about the incident because they did not want to create friction within the community. It is not hard to imagine what Sunita went through for 2 months following the incident. In villages in India when incidents like this happen, the community marks the girl/woman as public “trash.” It is for anyone to take any liberty with the the stigmatized girl, at any time and place. And she is required to bear her fate silently.
How often do incidents like this occur? One doesn’t know! For the incidents that are known of, are ones that became public ONLY because there were MMS clips circulating. The perpetrators had filmed their crime on their mobiles and had been circulating them! In 2007 there was similar incident with another young girl in Assam. And again in 2008 there was an incident when 2 girls out to celebrate the New Year, were molested by about 70 men near a beach in Mumbai.
Fortunately, for Sunita, some journalists came across the MMS clips and demanded police and legal action. It was only Sunita who had the audacity to identify some of the main perpetrators. The rest of her family and community remained mum! It is for this reason that Sunita is being given the Bravery Award. Currently Sunitha is being housed in a government quarter and she has clearly indicated that she does not want to return to her family or to her community — the Santhal Tribal community.
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF QUESTIONS THAT THIS CASE RAISES AND WE WOULD LIKE READER FEEDBACK ON THESE:
- The first question has been raised by NGO organizations working for the welfare of girls and women. They want to know why the government did not “try to involve NGOs and social support groups to rehabilitate her within the close-knit Santhal community?” What do you think? Should the government have made attempts, despite Sunita’s refusal to return to her community, to “rehabilitate” her with her village and community?
- The second question has to do with justice, specially in view of the fact that the award that Sunita is going to receive honors the Indian Constitution and hence the Indian system of law and justice. In a situation like this, where hundreds of men are involved, what in your opinion needs to be done to ensure a just trial? Sunita has named the gang-leaders? Does that mean there should be no legal accountability for the others? Conversely, if you think this is an unfeasible case to try in court, then does this give communities the leeway to repeat this. For what that would mean is that if one or two men commit a crime, then the law can come after you. But if you attack in mobs — the justice system can do nothing?
- The most important question — Why is this happening so frequently in India? These men know that this is wrong morally and legally — then why do they do it?
PLEASE SHARE YOUR OPINIONS AND FEEDBACK ON THESE 3 QUESTIONS BELOW
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER