By Paojel Chaoba
Manipur, IMPHAL, September 23: Leima wore a scarf to cover her tonsured head from the blazing afternoon sun as she came out to gather dried clothes hanging inside the compound of Glory Children Home located at Moirang today.
Leima (real name withheld) is about 15 years of age. She was sexually violated by a construction worker at a room inside the Indian National Army (INA) Museum complex located at Moirang bazar on September 17 afternoon.
Afterwards, the local Meira Paibis in the name of moral policing further victimized Leima by tonsuring her head and parading her as an immoral woman.
The police have registered a case in the regard (98/9/12) MPGPS. According to the investigating officer of Moirang Police Station, a mason identified as one Bhumeshwor, 38, son of Khoibi Devi, a resident of Khangabok Mayai Leikai coaxed the girl inside the INA complex and committed the act. Leima is unlike a normal teenager and she remains mentally unresponsive at times, according to report culled from police and a counselor of the Glory Children Home.
Some women who were at the nearby area had seen her going inside the complex with Bhumeshwor and suspected foul play.
They gathered other women and found them in a room. It still remains unclear to the police on how the rapist managed to flee from the scene, but the women caught hold of Leima and had tonsured her.
The rapist Bhumeshor is still absconding. Yet the Moirang Police OC claimed that they are on the trail of the rapist.
Leima was rescued by officials of the Child Welfare Committee, Bishnupur on the evening of the mentioned date. She was later taken for a medical examination at Moirang Hospital where doctors diagnosed Leima of being mentally unsound and evident of a sexual act having occurred.
Superintendent of Glory Children’s Home and chairman of Bishnupur CWC, Pishak told this reporter that Leima is being counseled at the home. However, there is a need to shift her to another institution or to the custody of a relative as her father is also mentally deranged and the present Home is only for boys.
Leima’s mother supports the family by selling betel leaves at Moirang bazaar.
“She is a juvenile and cannot be held liable for her actions. She has been victimized twice “, Pishak said. He voiced concern for such abused children.
Despite the police investigation, the act of the so-called Meira Paibis in tonsuring a girl child of unsound mind and victim of rape is yet to become a matter of public debate.
IFP spoke to some rights activists in this regard.
Former member of Manipur Human Rights Commission Yambem Laba said, “The police should immediately take steps to arrest the rapist as well as the so called meira paibis who have tonsured the victim.
He added. “It should be borne in mind that no person can have sexual relation with a minor, there is no question of whether she was willing or not. The matter should be reported to the National Commission for Women and the National Human Rights Commission so that they can monitor the case and bring to book the guilty persons.”
Keisam Pradipkumar, Convener of Manipur Alliance for Child Rights and state representative of NCPCR said, “It reflects the sheer insensibility and immaturity of the so called local Meira Paibis. How could one assure justice, when you fail to distinguish the perpetrator and the victim of a crime?
He added that activists and civil society organisations should respect human rights, child rights and right to privacy of the victims. Special protection should be given to the girl children.
Secretary of Wide Angle, Montu Ahanthem also in a similar note voiced that if a child in involved in a crime then he or she should be handed over to Child Welfare Committee or the Juvenile Justice Board.
Dr L Debabrata Roy of CORE said, “The news is shocking, but not surprising! Shocking, because such kinds of crime have become a phenomenon. It reflects the total dysfunctionality of our society today. It is not surprising because the institutions and legal system have let us down again and again.“
Member of High Level Committee on the Status of Women in India, Nandini Thockchom said, “Sex with a minor is statutory rape. Period, no ifs and buts about it.”
Exploring the legal aspect, advocate I Bobby said that both the rapist and the Meira Paibees may be held liable under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000. The women can be arrested and held for a time of six month in judicial custody .The Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act, 2012 also mentions that the rapist be made punishable for a term of 7 years without bail.