Mahila Adalat in Patna

Kumudini Pati

Nawada Police Firing and Rape in Custody

On 26 Sept.'96, the district unit of AIPWA of Nawada started a dharna on the Panch-Gawan Mor National Highway protesting against increasing atrocities on women in the state. At first the anchal adhikari and SHO of the local thana intervened and seized the AIPWA banner. After a lot of altercation the banner was returned to the organisers and a memorandum submitted. Since the anchal adhikari (B.D.O.) could not make any commitment, the activists began to shout slogans demanding the district collector to come and meet them in person. Of course, the police was waiting for some excuse to arrest and harass the women and so, before long, the police burst tear gas shells and fired fifteen rounds of bullets injuring 5 women and 3 men grievously. As the activists began to disperse, the police began to arrest the women, at least 13 in the first round. The women were all kept in police lockup. On the night of 26 Sept., at about 9 p.m. one of the local activists of AIPWA, Kalawati, was taken away to a separate room. Screams and cries filled the air as Kalawati was subjected to rape by a police constable and other police personnel. Kalawati, who has been subjected to inhuman torture for being one of the leading activists breaks down as soon as she is asked anything about whatever happened on 26th. No action has been initiated upto now on this incident.

Humiliation and Beating up of
AIPWA State Leader Saroj Chaubey

On 7 Apr.'96, the polling day for Patna LS constituency, JD activists and members conducted large-scale rigging, even trying to terrorise the masses and forcing them to return home. The Gardanibagh thana covers the area which is being organised by Com. Murtaza Ali, a dynamic leader of CPI(ML) respected by all. Since he had launched a militant struggle against the corrupt practices of the SHO of Gardanibagh thana, he had earned the ire of the local police incharge and had been targetted for attack. It was on 7th that the SHO got this opportunity and as Murtaza as well as another activist Manoj (election agent) resisted rigging by JD goons, they were arrested and beaten up in the police thana. Since the SHO Ram Sagar Prasad has earlier threatened Murtaza of a false encounter, as the news of his arrest spread the election incharge Comrade Saroj Chaubey marched to the local thana to inquire about the reason for this arrest. It was then that Saroj was abused by Ram Sager, slapped several times on the temples making her unconscious. As Saroj recovered from the shock and her unconscious state, she was again beaten up and again lost consciousness. It was only after 9 P.M. that she was taken to the PMCH for treatment. That Ram Sagar is the right hand man of Laloo's brother-in-law is a well known fact. He evades any action and still continues his reign of terror in Gardanibagh.

Raped and Orphaned

Lata Rani, the 10 year old daughter of Parutosh Roy and Maya Roy, who were practicing on a fake medical certificate at Sahabganj was forced to live in the home of the senior jail clerk Madhusudhan Kumar, along with her 8-year-old brother Kamal after the arrest of her parents. Lata Rani was raped on the night of 21 August '96 in the clerk's home, where he lived alone. On fear of death, the children were made to keep mum. However, when Lata recounted her horrible story to her mother and a complaint was made to the jail superintendent he turned a deaf ear to the story. Lata's medical report was tampered and rape denied in the final report which was, without further verification, accepted by the District Commissioner. 8-year-old Kamal died under mysterious circumstances on 10 Sept., his post mortem report confirming death due to poisoning. On 14th Sept., his mother Maya died in Bhagalpur Medical College under similar circumstances. Lata lives in a remand home today, separated from her only parent who is undergoing treatment at a mental asylum, while the District Commissioner, jail authorities, medical experts and the state remain unaffected by the spate of movements sparked off by this case.

The Case of Deepa
Murder of a Dream
Deepa Murmu was a young adivasi women with a promising career. A student of B.A., recipient of the Ambedkar fellowship on behalf of the Dalit Sahitya Academy, a poetess, story writer, singer and artist, a state-level football player and convener of the women's wing of JD youth organisation as well as member of the Chatra Janata Dal. Deepa joined the Bihar State Literacy Campaign in 1994 through the efforts of the then M.D. Mr. K.K. Sinha. Since Deepa was active and bold she used to go to district-level programmes of the literacy campaign and even ventured to stay out of home when need arose. The B.D.O. of Jamui district who was one of the officers deputed in the literacy mission made arrangements for the stay of Deepa in his home whenever it was late. On the night of 27 Nov.'95, Deepa, according to her routine practice stayed in his home. Deepa was subjected to the worst possible torture at the hands of the B.D.O. who raped her and left her pregnant. Deepa struggled on to live and give birth to her baby with whom she had developed a deep attachment even as it stirred for the first time in her womb. When the BDO and parents found out, it was the end of life for Deepa. She lost her job and was confined in a separate room without food and medication, her parents and brother and sister abusing her day and night and forcing her to do heavy work. Despite repeated requests by Deepa to the Chief Minister and other officials as well as Education Minister, Deepa could not get justice and almost starved to death, mentally shocked and in a pitiful condition. On 19 Aug.'96, Deepa wrote her last appeal for justice in her diary - "My oppressors should be punished after my death for I am absolutely innocent". Deepa lost her struggle for life as pain, humiliation and extreme penury forced her to succumb to ghastly pressures of an inhuman society.

The state of Bihar has been in the headlines for sometime for some of the most shocking scams - the infamous fodder scam almost resulting in a change of political equations in the state. The other reason for Bihar hitting the headlines is the

series of most brutal attacks on women, be it at the hands of the state machinery, the feudal lords and their goons or the anti-socials who are gradually gaining legitimacy in the socio-political scenario of Bihar. Repression on women during class struggles, violence as a result of caste vendetta targetting women as well as attacks on activists and leaders of revolutionary mass movements have become the order of the day - be it the Padaria rape case; the Papari Bose kidnapping; the rape of Alvina Mundu, Danwar-Bhita or the rape of a harijan woman by JD MLA Yogendra Narayana Sardar; naked parading of Bhukali Bhavana, Razia or Phuleshwari; the brutal stoning to death of Araharia Ram for marrying out of his caste or the branding of Malati with hot irons; Bathani Tola kaand or the police firing and rape in custody of women members of CPI(ML) in Nawada district; or the humiliation and beating up of ML leader Saroj Chaubey in a local thana of Patna - the list is long and the incidents horrifying. Cases of child rape crossed all limits as minors like Leta Rani, Anjum Bano, Bharana and Parul have been subjected to the most inhuman torture that can be thought of and are still crying for justice while the state government and the administration remain totally insensitive and women's organisations in Bihar except AIPWA have shown little concern besides sensationalising the incidents. While the Congress has been hardly interested in issues concerning women, rather has not raised a voice of protest even as a matter of formality, the ruling party has provided political cover to the most dangerous criminals, the release of Yogendra Narayan Sardar being a case in point. The BJP, despite its loud proclamations about protecting the life of women and fighting for a respectable place for them in society has done little to mobilise the mass of women against such atrocities, rather has always sided with feudal lords and oppressors while formally criticizing the ruling party for administrative inaction. It is no wonder that in most cases where dalit women have been at the receiving end of feudal brutality it is often the BJP that has stood against the oppressed.

It was under this backdrop that the Bihar AIPWA unit, after a year-long campaign for security, equality and self-respect for women, decided to hold a Mahila Adalat (women's court) in Patna. The perspective behind this initiative was to raise the consciousness of the mass of women in Bihar and hitting at the crux of the problem - that the state machinery in Bihar as well as the Laloo Yadav government have themselves been the biggest perpetrators of atrocities on women and have stood in the way of their independent assertion and the struggle for their just rights. The Mahila Adalat was organised in the Miller High School ground on 28 September. A panel of jury comprising Dr.Niroj Sinha, Dr.Sahida Hasan and Dr. IC Kumar was constituted. About 1000 women associated with CPI(ML) and AIPWA had been organised from different areas of women's struggle to participate in the Adalat. Besides, hundreds of women and men, journalists and mediamen as well as citizens of Patna flocked to the school ground. Around 31 cases of women's oppression were presented one after the other, some of the most important being the rape of Lata Rani by the jail clerk of Sahabganj district jail and the mysterious killing of her little brother and mother, the case of Bhavana Kumari Saha who was paraded naked and branded with hot sickles by feudals of Gopalganj, the home town of the CM Laloo Yadav, the humiliation and death of Deepa Murmu, an adivasi woman activist of JD who was raped by the BDO of Jamui district and died along with her unborn child, the rape and killing of more than a dozen dalit and Muslim women in Bathani Tola, the beating up of CPI(ML) Central Committee member Saroj Choubey, by the SHO of Gardanibagh thana on the polling day. The rape of minor girls like Parul Kumari by anti-socials or the killing of a women activist of AIPWA in Gopalganj district and police firing on women activists in Nawada district in which case rape of one of the arrested women Kalawati by police constable in custody was reported by others - these were some of the other important cases put up by AIPWA National Councillor Ms. Bharati S. Kumar, Secretary of AIPWA, Saroj Chaubey and Convener of Tehreeq-e-niswa, Shahida Hasan. Despite the fact that the AIPWA has been conducting a movement on the question of constituting women's commission in the state since '94 and the CM has again and again assured members of the Bihar legislature that the commission would soon be set up, nothing except placing a draft has been done to implement the decision. So much for Laloo's false promises! The jury members, later in separate judgments, pronounced the govt. guilty of perpetrating crime against women in the state while mentioning that it is imperative to recognise the political institutions responsible for helping to maintain the present socio-economic system where women remain deprived of all rights, shorn of any access to justice and living in a state of terror. The social apathy towards the victims is most evident in cases like that of Deepa Murmu, the pages of whose diary reveal the bitter truth of Bihar - "I want to live but I know death is nearing and my time has come. Please give me justice for I am totally innocent". The Chairperson of the National Human Right Commission, Justice Ranganath Mihsra was present as one of the important invitees to the Mahila Adalat. He patiently heard some of the important cases for about 2 full hours after which he also spoke.

Though it was a welcome gesture on the part of the NHRC to have given adequate importance to the AIPWA-organised women adalat, it was quite unfortunate that the Commission Chairman did not, for reasons best known to him, choose to take up cases of women's oppression that had reached the parliament and assembly or shocked democratic sections in the state, namely Bathani Tola, or the Nawada firing.