South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The Women’s Commission in the Indian state of West Bengal has announced an inquiry into allegations that a tribal woman was forced to parade naked.

Officials say she was forced to walk without her clothes for nearly 10km (6 miles) through three villages and was filmed on a mobile phone.

They say that she was also molested and jeered by a large crowd.

Locals say she was being “punished” because of an illicit love affair with a man from a different community.

A similar thing happened to another woman three years ago in the neighbouring state of Assam.

‘Shocking incident’

“Our team will visit the village of Masra – in the Birbhum district of West Bengal – and speak to the tribal woman concerned. We want the offenders brought to book,” Malini Bhattacharya of the West Bengal Commission for Women told the BBC.

She said that the main effort of the inquiry would be to find out why the woman’s family maintained ”such a long silence” and how the local administration “remained oblivious of such a shocking incident”.

Ms Bhattacharya said Birbhum district police Superintendent Humayun Kabir had been asked to submit a detailed report to the Women’s Commission.

Critics say that it was only after mobile phone clips of the woman went into wide circulation that the police swung into action.

Six of the men who allegedly molested her have been arrested.

The West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) has also asked the district police for a report into the incident within a month.

“If we are not satisfied with this report, we will do our own investigation and submit recommendations to the government,” WBHRC chairman Narayan Chandra Seal said.

What has especially upset many is the involvement of locally powerful people – alongside schoolboys – in the incident.

The village council chief, Mangal Baske, said he did not report the incident to police because of “pressure from the villagers”.

“Moreover, the problem died down soon afterwards and the girl’s family didn’t want me to do anything,” he said.

Meanwhile the victim of the alleged attack is being kept, along with her father, in police quarters at Rampurhat for “protection and questioning”.

“We are not letting her return to her village just yet because we fear that she might be hounded by villagers again,” police spokesman Bidhan Roy said.

Source – BBC – 11.08.2010