RAJBIRAJ, March 14: It was around eight o'clock in the evening. Parbati (name changed) walked out of her home in Sabhunath Municipality to buy medicines at a nearby medical store. The 18-year-old had hardly taken a few steps when two men appeared and took her under control. They started attacking and raping her. Three others, who were reportedly called over by phone,. also raped her . According to police, the accused are none others than neighbors of the victim.
“They dragged me to a rice field nearby and threatened to killed me if I made any noise,” Saptari Police Chief SP Mukesh Singh quoted her as saying.
When their daughter did not return home, Parbati's family started searching. They somehow reached the rape site at midnight. Parbati was lying in the field severely injured and unconscious. “She was senseless and alone when we found her,” lamented her mother .
Upon receiving a complain, SP Singh said two of the accused in the incident, which took place Sunday night, were held the same night. “The three others are still at large but will be arrested soon,” he said.
The culprits are thought to be aged between 18 to 25. The girl was taken to Gajendranarayan Hospital for treatment and has since returned home.
A day earlier, another woman met a similar fate not far away. Radha (again name changed) of Bishnupur Rural Municipality claims she was ganged raped by two persons. She was returning home from market around seven o'clock when they waylaid her and subjected her to rape before fleeing. She has filed a complain at the police station, but the accused have yet to be caught.
Half dozen cases in one month
In the last one month alone, half a dozen rape cases have been reported in the district. Young and old have been equally victimized and even babies and toddlers are not spared. According to Singh, the victims come from almost all classes although a higher number of them are from Dalit and marginalized communities. Perpetrators are also from all classes in society. The problem is too big for small, fragmented efforts at correction.
“A 19-year-old is now in custody. He is accused of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl,” SP Singh informed.
In an incident on February 8, Parbatikumari Mandal of Khadak Municipality– 9 was reportedly raped and killed by her own cousin Rajdev Mandal. Rajdev is in police custody.
A week later on Feb. 15, a two-year-old girl was raped in Chhinnamasta Rural Municipality. The accused is a 12-year-old boy from the neighborhood.
The same week, a three-year-old girl was raped reportedly by a 13-year-old boy in Krishna Sawarad Rural Municipality.
Earlier on January 22, an 11-year-old girl of Tilathi-Koiladi Rural Municipality was raped while returning home from a school function.
As per the district police office, six rape cases have been filed in the last one month alone. In the current fiscal year so far, 19 rape cases have surfaced. Nineteen accused in those cases are in police custody as investigations continue.
According to SP Singh, this issue calls for greater involvement by the government, think tanks and others. “We need to get to the root of the problem rather than just making a hue and cry when something goes wrong. Improving safety measures and launching awareness programs will not be enough,” he said. “The young have free access to the internet and they are poorly informed about many things. We need to take a very broad approach,” he added.
Badrinarayan Jha, a civil society leader in Saptari, agrees. He says that children should be barred from using the internet. Similarly, the young and even grown-ups should have better knowledge of safe sex. “Girls should not be sent outside the home at odd hours and boys should be taught social responsibility and respect,” he stated.