13 victims to get compensation of Rs seven lakh each
Raipur, October 30
In a historical verdict, a fast track court (FTC) in Kanker, Chhattisgarh on Wednesday awarded life sentence to three out of eight accused in Jhaliyamari gangrape case. The court has further announced five-year imprisonment to two accused officials and three-year imprisonment to three more convicts for hiding evidence. Besides, it has imposed fine of Rs 500 each on all eight accused. It has also instructed State government to give compensation of Rs seven lakh each to the families of 13 rape victims. The FTC’s decision came in ten months. It recorded statements of 90 witnesses during this period.
The two main accused - contractual teacher Mannulal Goti and watchman Dinanath Nagesh were charged of gangraping tribal girls for over two years while the third accused - hostel warden Babita Markam did not put the matter before higher authorities despite knowing about it.
The gangrape case in village Jhaliyamari under Narharpur block, some 37 km away from Kanker district hadquarters, came to fore in January 2013. After probe, Goti and Nagesh were made main accused while Markam, another contractual teacher Sagar Katlam, block education officer (BEO) SS Navarji, assistant BEO Jeetendra Nayak, Jhaliyamari sarpanch Sukalu Netam and panch Lachchuram Salam were made co-accused in the matter.
The girls’ hostel is located next to primary school in Jhaliyamari. 43 girls, aged 6-13 years, were residing in the hostel. All the girls hailed from five villages adjoining to Jhalliyamari. There are only three rooms in the hostel. The girls lived sans basic facilities like toilets, beds, potable water, etc. Since, warden Markam never stayed at night in hostel, Goti and Nagesh gangraped tribal girls for over two years.
The girls first complained about sexual abuse against them to Nagesh’s wife. Since Nagesh himself was involved in the gangrape case, his spouse posed silence. The girls then sought help from Markam .but she too put a deaf ear towards them.
When the matter reached to gram panchayat, a meeting was called in August 2012. The panchayat simply imposed fine of Rs 5000 each on Goti and Nagesh and the entire matter was brushed under the carpet. Nagesh paid the fine and continued sleeping in hostel, while the Goti did not comply with gram panchayat’s verdict, though he stopped visiting hostel.
The matter somehow reached to BEO Navarji and ABEO Nayak, but the duo refrained from taking action against Goti and Nagesh even when they found allegations against the accused to be true after investigation.
Eventually, when Kanker Collector received a phone call about sexual harassment of the minors, she instantly constituted a team of woman officials to inquire into the reports. The girls confided in the officials when they visited. Following this, Goti and Nagesh were arrested on January 5, 2013. On the following day, all the girls were taken to Kanker for their medical check-up.
The State’s politics flared up after this incident. The ruling BJP drew flak from all nook and corners of the nation. Later, the national ST commission, in its report, said the State’s ashram schools lacked basic facilities and children were compelled to live in unhygienic conditions. The report directly held the State government responsible for gangrape case.