Struggle Intensifies for Justice for Juvenile Rape and Murder Victim in Samastipur

The incident of gruesome rape and subsequent murder of a juvenile girl Swati (name changed) in Ujiyarpur block of Samastipur district in ward no. 7 of Satanpur on 23 September, 2022 grabbed headlines. The father of the victim, Vinod Das belonging to Tatma caste, worked as a daily wage worker in Delhi to repay the loan he had taken for the marriage of his elder daughter. The mother, Phoolpari Devi had on that day gone to see her ailing mother. On that night, Swati's 9 year old brother was sleeping in an adjacent room while Swati had left her room unlocked. At 5 in the morning, when her brother woke up, he was shocked to see her body hanging from a noose. He called his Uncle and their neighbours also reached there on hearing his cries. They saw that there were wounds on her private parts and her body. Her leg was broken and there was slime smeared over her body. Her undergarment was choking her mouth and blood was oozing from her ears. On hearing the tragic news, her mother returned home and removed the undergarment from her daughter's mouth. It was evident that the victim had offered stiff resistance and had tried to raise an alarm. The mother lodged a complaint of rape and murder in the police station against one Imteyaz alias Rinku who was on bail after 14 months on charge of a murder. She said that two days ago, the accused has threatened on mobile to rape Swati. Another person, Ruman Ahmad Sawri was also hand-in-glove with  Imteyaz. The mother told that she had visited Rinku's house the same night at 9 pm to enquire about the threat. Rinku took her complaint casually and deleted his number from her mobile phone. She said that Rinku used to seek sexual favour from Swati in the past but on her persistent refusal, committed the crime. The CPI(ML) fact-finding team that visited the scene of crime that same day was told that Rinku exhibited similar behaviour towards other local girls as well.

In this matter the Udiyarpur police station filed 309/22 but the station-in-charge was reluctant to file a case of gang rape and murder. He did not even bother to have her viscera tested after her post-mortem. In spite of a named FIR, he did not bother to arrest the accused because of his proximity with him.

CPI(ML) protested against the connivance of the local police and took the matter to the DSP. But he too toed the same line as the SHO and said that it was not a case of gang rape and murder but of suicide in a love-affair. This attitude enraged the locals further.

To channelize the discontent of the locals, it was decided to gherao the Ujiyarpur police station on 9th October. What happened at the police station was a display of criminals- bootleggers- police connivance. The CPI(ML) leaders leading the gherao were attacked by goons who had been assembled at the police station to attack the protestors in a planned manner. The goons were supplied sticks, masks and liquor for the attack. All CCTV cameras in the nearby market had been deactivated. In Spite of the presence of women police, CPI(ML) leader, ex-MLA and ex-Chairperson of State women's Commission Manju Prakash was attacked and humiliated. It was planned to murder popular mass leader Phoolbabu Singh but the masses foiled the move. A video and photos of the incident are available. Considering the gravity of this shameful incident, CPI(ML) demanded from the Bihar Chief Minister that the DSP and the local SHO be suspended, security to be provided to the family of the victim, publication of post-mortem report, compensation to the family of the victim and setting up a high-level enquiry committee to probe into the matter.

Indefinite fast starts in Samastipur

Even after six months of the gangrape and murder, there was no progress in the police investigation and the accused were not arrested, nor was any action taken against the SHO. CPI(ML) decided to organise the masses against the criminal role of the administration. On 27 March 2023, an indefinite fast was initiated before the Police Superintendent's office. It was led by Ujiyarpur CPIML secretary Ganga Paswan, Swati's mother, Birju Shah, Sudhanshu Priyadarshi, Shyam Kumar, Md. Shakoor and Reeta Devi. The fast has been going on for one week and with each passing day, scores of people from various parts of Samastipur are visiting the site. Local leaders from Samastipur were also participating.

Issue raised in Bihar Assembly

Gopal Ravidas, CPI(ML) MLA raised the issue in the Bihar Assembly on 31 March, 2023 and demanded justice for the victim as well as the suspension of the SHO Anil Kumar Singh. He told the house that he had led a delegation to meet the Police Superintendent and District Magistrate but no tangible action has been taken.

AIPWA protests in front of the District Magistrate

On 1 April, 2023, on the 6th day of the fast, the health of the protestors started to deteriorate.  Enraged, women leaders under the banner of AIPWA, led by Vandana Singh and AISA leader Manisha Kumari led a protest march against the DM and SP and addressed a mass meeting. It was also addressed by CPI(ML) polit bureau member Dhirendra Jha. He said that BJP leaders are involved in the murder and because of the patronage of the local MP, the police was not taking action.

On 2 April, a press conference was addressed by Com. Satyadev Ram, CPI(ML) MLA and Shashi Yadav, AIPWA State Secretary. They accused the district administration of being insensitive on this matter because the victim was the daughter of a Dalit labourer. CPIML leaders Phoolbabu and Ranjit Ram, AIARLA leader Upendra Rai announced that they would be joining the indefinite fast from 4 April.

4th April-Samastipur Bandh

The talks with the SDM and DSP gave no positive outcome. It was decided to organise a torch-light procession on 3 April, to be followed by a Samastipur Bandh on 4 April.

On the 9th day of the indefinite fast, an impressive Samastipur Bandh was organised. Hundreds of activists, with banners, flags and festoons marched from Malgodam Chowk , through Station Road, Tuntunia Gumti, old Post Office Road, Overbridge crossing to the DMs residence and thereafter to Stadium crossing, stadium market before finally reaching the overbridge crossing.  Main road remained blocked. By shutting down shops, vehicles, schools, offices, the residents of the district gave their whole-hearted support to the Bandh. This led to a round of discussion with the District administration which promised to remove the SHO within the next 15 days and a month's time was sought to take action against the accused. Thereafter, the indefinite fast was ended. The hope of getting justice for Swati was once again strengthened.