Earlier this month, the police in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district claimed to have found in a remote forest village two 10-year-old girls who “narrated tales of their sexual exploitation by Maoists”. Following their account, the police arrested suspected Maoist Kudiyami Gujja and a few other rebels.
Gujja was paraded before the media where he admitted that he regularly “took away 10-12-year-old girls and raped them”. The parents of the girls identified Gujja. The police claimed they had “unearthed a racket that supplied minor girls to top Maoists”.
Two weeks later, the parents and other villagers strongly deny that the girls were raped. They doubt, and even laugh at, the rape claims and accuse the police of kidnapping and molesting the two as well as a 22-year-old woman, Tati Sarita. When told that the police have medical reports confirming rape, the villagers respond: “The police themselves must have raped them.”
SP Prashant Agrawal says the girls are “under administrative care” in Bijapur — in a police barrack — and that the villagers are “lying” as they are scared of the Maoists. He denied that the police molested anyone and said the girls would be rehabilitated by the force. “We will send them to school. The Centre has sanctioned Rs 5 lakh each for their rehabilitation,” he said.
Gujja and the girls are residents of Farsapalli, 40 km from Bijapur. A police team found them there on November 1, Agrawal said. “Gujja was arrested two days later with a few other Naxals. Gujja has admitted to have repeatedly raped these girls and that he supplied girls to Maoists,” the SP said.
But the parents of the girls say they are hearing about this for the first time. “Rape? Whose rape? My daughter was raped? By Gujja? When? “When did I identify Gujja? I never saw him in Bijapur. I went there only to bring back my daughter but the police refused (to send her)” asks the father of one of the girls.
Parents of the other girl echoed this version. “If Gujja was raping my daughter, she would have told me first,” said the mother of the second girl. Gujja lived next door to this family with his wife Ramakka, two children, and brother.
Residents of Farsapalli and neighbouring villages agree. In fact, the villagers claim two local boys were witness to the police molesting the two girls.
The two girls sat quietly when this reporter met them on two occasions last week. They had tears in their eyes and appeared too intimidated to speak and managed a few fumbling sentences when prompted by policewomen.
Questions have been raised about the police version of events as the police did not make public that Tati Sarita was among those arrested on November 3 in connection with the rape of the two girls. Witnesses said the police molested Sarita and she was in a “dishevelled condition”. But Agrawal and the DSP (special operations) denied she was among those arrested.
The case diary at Modakpal police station, however, records Sarita’s arrest with four men — Irma Suklu, Michha Banga, Michha Suklu and Punem Ramesh — on November 3. Confronted with the diary, Agrawal said: “We might have forgotten it.” On the other hand, the case diary says Gujja was arrested on November 8.
The police version is further contradicted by the CRPF. While the police have said the two girls were found on November 1 and Gujja, Sarita and four others held on November 3, CRPF men, who led the joint operation with the police, said they were all picked up together in a raid on a Maoist meeting.
The CRPF account matches that of the villagers.