February 8, 2011 : The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), Assam concerning the case of rape of a 20 year-old-woman by her father-in-law. The victim was raped because she belongs to a poor family and was unable to provide the dowry during the time of her marriage. A complaint was then lodged to the local police station but to-date no action has been taken. Instead, the victim was threatened by the investigating officer to withdraw the complaint.
On December 2009, Mrs. Sonia (name changed) aged about twenty years was married to Mr. Pabitra Das. Sonia’s husband Pabitra does not have any proper source of income for their livelihood. He sells low quality ornaments in remote villages. Sonia’s father-in-law, Mr. Haricharan Das is a widower and works as a teacher in a government school.
Sonia belongs to a poor family and her father Mr. Dondodhar Das could not provide a sufficient dowry during the time of her marriage. Sonia alleged that after four/five months after her marriage, hers husband’s family demanded Rs. 50,000/= and a bicycle as dowry. When Sonia expressed her father’s inability to provide the demanded dowry, the entire husband family gradually started subjecting Sonia to mental and physical harassment. This was perpetrated mainly by Sonia’s father-in-law.
Sonia’s husband, and his unemployed younger brother Mr. Jayanta Das, used to leave home early in the morning everyday in search of work and return around 10pm. Sonia alleged that her father-in-law Haricharan beat her one day in his son’s absence and forced Sonia to have sex with him. This incident left Sonia traumatised. Sonia was at her wit’s end and could not tell anyone out of shame, disgust and fear. She has since been compelled to have sex with her father-in-law on several occasions.
The conditions became unbearable for Sonia that finally she told everything to her husband. Pabitra, instead of trusting his wife, hurled verbal abuse at her and accused Sonia of trying to malign his father and his relatives with the intension of breaking up the family. Sonia could no longer endure the agony and anguish and returned to her maternal home on July 2010. Sonia told her father and mother about the demand of dowry, ill-treatment and cruelty towards her but did not tell them of rape and molestation by her father-in-law.
Sonia’s father Dondodhar thought it was a normal wear and tear of conjugal life or at most a little ill-treatment for dowry. Dondodhar insisted that his daughter reconcile with her husband and their family so that She could start a new life, forgetting the past incidents. Dondodhar along with other village elders went to Haricharan’s house to discuss all matters other than the sexual harassment of his daughter Sonia. Sonia was then told by her father to stay with her husband and their family after the discussion.
It is reported that on September 2010 Haricharan with his whole family moved to Dhoomkar village from Salimabad. The place was new for Sonia and she did not know anyone. At this juncture, Haricharan once again started sexually assaulting his daughter-in-law. When Sonia could no longer bear to keep quiet and suffer in silence she told her husband on 29 November 2010. Pabitra became furious as he was already convinced of his father’s innocence and started beating Sonia. Sonia’s father-in-law and brother-in-law, Jayanta, joined him in assaulting Sonia.
Sonia alleged that the three men were trying to kill her and later that night at around 10 pm managed to escape the house. The father and sons tried to follow Sonia but could not trace her in the darkness. Mr. Somorendra Deb, resident of Dhoomkar and other passers-by including Ms. Ratna Das, President of Korkori Gaon Panchayat and Mr. Narat Lal Das, Vice-president of Korkori Gaon Panchayat found Sonia, gave her shelter, and informed the local police.
It is reported that on 30 November 2010 Sonia lodged a complaint to the Kalain police outpost but it was not registered in the police station. Therefore, Sonia filed two other complaints in the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Silchar on 6 December 2010. The CJM clubbed both the complaints together and directed the Katigorah Police Station (PS) to register a First Information Report (FIR) and investigate the case.
Thereafter, an FIR was registered at Katigorah PS as Case no. 666/10 under Sections 376 (punishment for rape) and 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) against Sonia’s husband Pabitra, brother-in-law Jayanta and Haricharan, father-in-law. Mr. Prabhat Saikia, a Sub-Inspector of Police and In-Charge of Kalain police outpost was made the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case.
However, the police did not take any actions to investigate the case based on the FIR. Instead, the IO met the victim, Sonia, and pressured her to withdraw the complaint and to settle the matter amicably. Sonia alleged that the IO threatened to render her family beggars and homeless if she continued to pursue the case in courts or any other legal forums.
On 30 December 2010, Sonia wrote a written complaint to the district Superintendent of Police (SP) about the misconduct of the IO and requested the SP to intervene in investigating her case. There has been no response or action from the SP as yet on Sonia’s complaint.