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Suspicious death of Adivasi hockey girls: Hundreds protest cop ‘inaction’ in Jharkhand

By Our Representative
Hundreds of people gathered at Simdega, Jharkhand, to protest against alleged lapses in police investigation into the death of two young Adivasi girls, who were hockey players. The protest on October 19 was organised by the National Federation of Indian Women in association with several other civil rights organisations.
These included the Adivasi Women’s Network, Bagaicha, the National Human Rights Organization (NHRO), the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) Watch, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the United Milli Forum, and several organizations associated Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha.
On August 11, two young girls, Shradhha Shalini Soreng (14 years) and Sunandini Bage (23 years), were found dead, hanging from a tree in Arani village of Simdega district. The girls were promising hockey players. The girls stayed with a person Mary Purty in Rourkela who had promised coaching help to them.
Shradha’s father Rajesh Soreng, addressing the gathering, said that from the beginning itself, before starting the investigation, the police claimed that it was a suicide. The police kept telling the family that they met the coach and had found that Shradha was not a ‘nice’ girl.
Cops claimed, they had come to know that both the girls were in a homosexual relationship. And hence they were convinced that it was a suicide. They verbally abused the family members several times regarding Sharadha’s “bad” behaviour. They kept saying, “Aapki beti gande-gande kaam karti thi”.
Sunandini’s mother said, the parents were not aware of any homosexual relationship between them, adding, they were convinced that it was not a suicide but a murder, and the coach was involved in their deaths.
A neighbour of Shradha, who had seen her grow up from her childhood, said that she was a dedicated sportswoman. Three days before the incident, Shradha and her daughter had met, the neighbour continued. Shradha was cheerful. She went to Rourkela to inquire into the case and found that neighbours of the coach thought she was involved in sexual exploitation of the girls at her place.
President of the gram sabha, where the girls were found hanging, said that the police did not wait for any witness before taking the bodies down from the tree. He added, the cops did not conduct field investigation after the death. They did not even talk to people of that village. Several other people of Shradha’s and Sunandini’s village said that the police was threatening the victims’ family members and trying to falsely build a case of suicide.
NFIW’s Taramani Sahu, who was part of a civil society fact-finding team that inquired into the incident, addressing the dharna, said that the local police had threatened the family members not to talk to civil society inquiry teams.
There were several loose ends in the investigation by the police. Just based on the testimony of one girl Pushpa Lohar (14-years old, also stayed at the coach’s residence), the police developed a story of suicide driven by a homosexual relationship.
Sahu said, eye witnesses near the site of the incident had seen that the girls were followed by a bike and a car. Regina Xalxo, one of members of the inquiry team, added, the coach initially refused to talk to them when they went to her place.
The coach was not able to tell the team about details about her coaching engagements. James Herenj of the NREGA Watch, said that Simdega police was trying to create a false story of suicide because if they declare it to be a murder, then questions will be raised on their own functioning.
At the end of the dharna, the protesters submitted a memorandum addressed to the governor to the local administration demanding
  • Form a Special Investigation Team to conduct fresh and through probe into the death, possibility of murder and inquire the allegations against the coach
  • Stop character assassClick ination of the victims 
  • Take action against the police officials responsible for the lapses in investigation, for building a false case of suicide and for character assassination of the victims
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Click HERE for fact-finding report

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