Skip to main content

Sexual abuse of tribal girls in South Gujarat; "involvement" of well-organized mafia of politicians, cops, officials

By Nachiketa Desai*
A month ago, a tribal girl in Vyara, the district town of Tapi in South Gujarat, was molested by her employer, and a video of the act was circulated widely on social media. The person who captured the video was another tribal girl in the employ of the accused, who runs a non-government organization (NGO), which receives grants from the state government for running Mahila Sashaktikaran (women’s empowerment) programmes.
In a separate incident, last week, a 14-year-old lodged a first information report (FIR) with the Vyara police station against her 45-year-old employer for having raped her several times and threatened to kill her entire family if she opened her mouth. Initially the cops refused to act against the accused, who belongs to the family of a well-connected politician. The accused was finally arrested following complaints in Gujarat capital, Gandhinagar, which led the authorities to order action.
To any common person unfamiliar with the current goings-on in tribal areas of Gujarat, these two incidents may appear to be isolated cases. However, according to activists of an upcoming people’s organization among tribal farmers in South Gujarat, Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM), this is just a “tip of iceberg.”
AKSM, which has become a formidable force in the tribal districts of Tapi and Chhota Udepur, has been taking up tribal rights and environmental issues affecting the forest dwellers of the region. It has gained popularity for the fight which it has put up against the river sand mafia in Chhota Udepur and refusal to pay up tribal farmers’ dues for sugarcane sold to a cooperative sugar mill, run by powerful local politicians.
Say AKSM sources, a well-organized racket has come to stay in the tribal areas, whose sole is to push tribal girls into flesh trade. The racket has the support of several local politicians in connivance with government officials, including police, forest and those working in the tribal and social welfare department.
Says Romel Sutaria, AKSM president, flesh traders target teen-age tribal girls, who out of poverty come to towns in search of employment as house maids and in small business establishments.
“We have come across and exposed several cases whereby these hapless girls are supplied to local politicians for their ‘entertainment’ by the flesh traders, who operate under the cover of doing contract work for various government departments”, he alleges.
Often, say activists, the flesh trade mafia also finds tribal girls pursuing their studies residing in government-run hostels as their soft target. There have been cases when hostel wardens, mostly non-tribals from an urban centres, turn a blind eye to this, with a few of them even colluding with the mafia.
“The local police are not only reluctant to take complaints from the victims but in most cases treat the victims as criminals,” Sutariya says. “In both cases of molestation and rape in Vyara, the police harassed the girls by making them wait in the police station for hours before taking down their FIR,” he adds.
Says Sutariya, AKSM activists are “harassed because they seek to expose the established interests in the region”. Also running a campaign against the sand mining mafia, in Chhota Udepur district, the police sought to implicate Sutariya in criminal cases, which were set aside as false by the local district courts.
“The district officials even tried to paint the AKMS as an outfit of Maoists, though without much success. They have planted reports in local Gujarati newspapers about AKSM’s involvement in Naxalite activities, even though we believe non-violent methods of struggle,” Sutariya complains.
---
*Senior journalist based in Ahmedabad

Comments

Unknown said…
This is a very serious issue not only in Gujarat but all over country. in most of the cases police either support the perpetrators or indifferent. I wonder how would they feel and react if their daughters and sisters, mothers are raped?

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.