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

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

Madhya Pradesh tops India's 145 instances of 'anti-Christian atrocities' this year

Counterview Desk  A report prepared by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), founded in 1951 as the national alliance of evangelical Christians of the Protestant denomination, in its just-released report, “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India: Half Yearly Report 2021”, has said that an analysis of 145 cases of violence it has documented against Christians, mainly by non-state actors, “stems from an environment of targeted hate.”

Demolition drive: Why aren't high-end hotels, farmhouses treated same way as Khorigaon?

By Our Representative A public hearing, sponsored by the civil rights group National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) to hear the affected citizens of Khorigaon, off Faridabad, Delhi NCR, has seen local people complaining how their houses are being demolished even as the entire area was converted into a prison through heavy police deployment.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Meaningful? Punjab govt's debt waiver offer for agricultural workers, landless farmers

By Dr Gian Singh*    On July 14, 2021, the Punjab government announced that it would hold a state level function on August 20 to waive the debt of agricultural labourers and landless farmers(pure tenants) of Punjab to the tune of Rs 590 crore. Prior to the 2017 elections, the Congress party had promised in its election manifesto and public speeches that the Punjab government would waive all the institutional and non-institutional debt of farmers and agricultural labourers of Punjab.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

How BSF, police, court turned Bangladeshi woman slave victim into accused in crime

Counterview Desk  Civil rights leader Kirity Roy has strongly objected to the manner in which the Border Security Force (BSF) , the police and the judiciary in West Bengal have treated a 35 years old Bangladeshi woman victim of human trafficking, who was subjected to sexual exploitation for 15 long years, has been declared guilty of violating the Foreigners Act, violating all human rights norms.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Pro-corporate? New GoI circular 'blatant attempt' to control Adivasi lives, livelihoods

By Hemant Das*  The Indian Community Activists Network (ICAN) condemns the anti-forest dwellers circular jointly issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the (Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), Government of India (GoI) on July 6. 

Covid impact on menstrual cycles? Young girls 'relapsing' back to unhygienic old-cloth rags

By Dr Sudeshna Roy*  Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the world in health and economic shock. Combating this public health crisis has diverted development resources earmarked for adolescents and the youth. India; having world’s second largest population; 1.38 crores as per UN mid-year 2020 estimation, also shelters the largest adolescents and young adult population, which at 243 million constitute 20% of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescent population.