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The 12 year old tribal girl was not allowed to go home by the employers for a long time, and was pregnant when she was allegedly burnt alive by her employers on 22nd April.
Trigger Warning: This article has descriptions of child sexual abuse, child abuse, and violence against women, and may be triggering for survivors.
In a horrifying incident from Assam, a 12-year-old tribal girl who was employed as domestic help was allegedly burnt alive by her employers on 22nd April. The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) has stated that the minor girl was pregnant.
This happened at the home of the girl’s employers, in Khaigur village of Nagaon district of Assam, under the jurisdiction of Raha Police Station. The minor was a tribal girl from the adjoining West Karbi Anglong district.
According to the ASCPCR, the neighbours have informed them that the victim was sexually abused before she was murdered. The employers had also not allowed the girl from returning home for a long time.
The police have arrested the 70-year-old employer, Prakash Borthakur and his 25-year-old son, Nayanmoni. The ASCPCR has urged the SP of Nagaon to put this case on fast track mode and incorporate provisions from POCSO Act, 2012 and Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, in the chargesheet against the employers.
The appalling circumstances which the minor girl went through is entirely society’s fault for not being able to defend our women and children against such criminals, especially when they are from marginalised communities and regions.
The oppression and marginalization that led to this horrific crime is multi-layered. She was a twelve year old girl, a child labour, hailing from a tribal community, from a North-eastern state.
The girl was a 12 year old child, and according to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016, despite its many flaws, no one can employ anyone below the age of fourteen (except in ‘family enterprises’). The employment of the 12-year-old tribal girl who was brutally murdered is a criminal offence. Employment of child labour can lead to an imprisonment of at least six months to two years and/or a fine between 20,000 and 50,000 ruppees.
The employers knowingly hired an underage child, which is exploitation in itself. But in addition to that, according to the neighbours who shared with ASCPCR, they mentally and physically abused the minor victim. The employers did not allow her to go home for a long time.
This also goes to show that the sexual abuse of the victim possibly happened over a period of time, with a number of people privy to this harrowing crime.
The neighbours who were acquainted to such information did not come forward earlier to the police to report the criminalities and exploitation of the tribal girl. They shared with the child rights commission, after her death, that she was sexually abused and had become pregnant.
This was a failure of the neighbours, the village and the society at large that the authorities weren’t alerted in time so that another minor citizen of our nation did not have to live in those inhuman conditions and meet such an end.
In addition to the victim’s age and gender identity, her social location, too, hailing from a tribal community, made her particularly susceptible to the oppression and violence she was subjected to.
Crimes against tribal individuals and caste-based violence are as ever on the rise, especially with the spread of Hindutva politics. It is the duty of every upper caste individual to recognise the structures of oppression and actively work to be anti-caste. The young tribal girl was a victim of a crime driven by power politics, in terms of age, gender and social location.
This incident happened on the 22nd of April and yet the mainland remained by and large blissfully unaware of the atrocities this minor girl was subjected to. We became aware only after a few North East activists spoke up about this on social media, and a change.org petition was made against the incident.
According to one report, in 2018 alone 66 rape cases were recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau in the state of Assam, more than in any other state. How long can the mainland of India continue to ignore other parts of the country, particularly the North-Eastern states!
Every individual or the country has to do more and do better, initiate conversations and translate them into practice and law. Incidents like this shake us to our very core but that cannot be where it should end. We have a duty to make this country safer for women, children and for every marginalised community. This was an absolute failure of the state machinery to provide and ensure safeguards for its marginalised citizens, and the state has to be held accountable.
Image source: geralt on pixabay
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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional
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