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15 year old gang rape victim commits suicide and the Odisha government has a lot to answer

In a sad turn in a long series of events, on 22nd January, the 15-year-old Gangrape victim of Kunduli, Odisha has committed suicide. She was found hanging from her own dupatta in her room by her family members. Her body was brought to the government hospital in Kunduli, Koraput where she was declared dead.

This tragic event has pushed the entire state into turmoil. The opposition parties, as well as citizens, have taken to streets protesting against the alleged “lack of empathy” and failure of justice by the current Biju Janata Dal Government led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Odia News channel OTV has reported that this could cast a shadow on CM Naveen Pattnaik celebrating the much-hyped ideal CM award and would also lead to allegations of “opposition design” by the ruling BJD.

The gang rape case came to highlight when the family of the victim, a student of standard 9, in the tribal area of Kunduli, Koraput, brought her in a critical condition to Kunduli government hospital on October 10, 2017. She was reported to have been brutally raped by at least four men. She was sent later to Koraput Medical College for further treatment. After treatment, she was sent to a Children’s home, 17 days later under the vigilance of the Child Welfare Committee. She has been repeatedly in and out of hospitals since then. In an unexpected turn of events, the state police denied that any rape has happened. The victim’s family had protested against it. On 8 November, the case was handed over to crime branch for re-investigation. After many trips between hospitals and children’s home, the victim finally went home under her family’s supervision on 28 November.

The state police’s denial of rape had triggered wide outrage among the public. The victim had alleged earlier that while undergoing treatment in Koraput medical college, the police had tried to pressurise her into withdrawing her complaint. Even her family had alleged that while under treatment, attempts had been made to showcase her as ‘mentally unstable’. The victim had attempted suicide twice earlier. The firs time, she was stopped by an aunt while she tried to fling herself from the roof. Later she had consumed too many iron pills in the hospita. Though the state police denied this event, the hospital authorities had confirmed.

The young girl’s suicide has rekindled many questions about Odisha’s dismal record in cases of crimes against women. Regional newspaper, The Sambada, has reported that the state has a disturbing 6.2% rate of conviction in cases of crimes against women, a shocking 3 times LESS than the national average. Mostly by judicial delay and lack of proper investigations. While a staggering 82,364 cases were sub-judice, as per last year, only 6304 cases saw verdict. Even then only 392 of them saw the culprits charged.

The tragic end of a young girl’s life has put both the society and state machinery in shock.

Several Odia political leaders have expressed sadness over the incident.

Whether the victim finds justice, only time will tell.

Update: The probe report of the Commission of Inquiry on Kunduli gang rape & suicide case, which was tabled in the Odisha Assembly today by Minister of State for Home Department, Dibya Shankar Mishra, questioned the role of the victim’s family members and political parties, while terming the whole case a mystery that will require further probe.

“The victim girl could have been the best person to have said that why she made such false accusations & why she committed suicide. The exact cause is a mystery & will remain so unless unearthed by making further investigation,” the report said.

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