Jhargram, (West Bengal): Rape, arson and torture are the allegations villagers here in West Bengal are making against state police. The government says it's looking into the allegations.
But it's a blow to a state police force which claims it is reaching out to the villagers as part of its battle against the Naxals in the state.
A 50-year old woman from Sonamukhi village, 15 kilometers from Jhargram town, alleges she was raped by the joint forces on the 30th of June. At least six women from this village have undergone medical tests at the Jhargram hospital after they alleged rape by the paramilitary forces. The reports are yet to come. But the women of Sonamukhi allege rape and torture during a joint forces raid in search of suspected Maoists.
A rape victim alleged: "I was tending cattle. They dragged me away (wails) and forced me onto a charpoy. They slapped me held me down and then raped me."
Bindu Mahato, alleged torture victim, says: "Two jawans were dragging my daughter-in-law into a house. I grabbed her and brought her here. (Weeps) And others followed. This is how they terrorize us."
A 76-year old woman, Sarabala Mahato from neighbouring Birihandi village, succumbed to injuries she allegedly sustained at the hands of the forces on the same day. At Sonamukhi, evidence of plundered households is still apparent.
The state government says that though jawan sustained bullet injuries during that raid, it is taking the victims' allegations seriously.
Narayan Swaroop Nigam, district magistrate of West Midnapore, said: "Government is very serious to look into the genuine grievances of the local villagers. We have to investigate properly and if someone is found guilty, he will be taken to task."
Sonamukhi, like most villages of Bengal's Jungalmahal region, is almost devoid of men who have fled for fear of being branded Maoists and subsequent torture and arrests. And caught in the crossfire of the rebels and the government troops are the women who have been left alone with their daily dose of fear.
At a time when the state government claims that it is reaching out to villagers to re-instill their confidence in the establishment, incidents like these have clearly pushed those efforts two steps back even before the first step forward was taken.
Bringing the culprits to book is the least that the government can do now to restore some amount of trust it has long lost among these people.
Meanwhile, the Chattisgarh police claims that the man behind the June 6 attack on Congress leader Avdesh Singh is close to activists Arundhati Roy, Nandini Sundar and Medha Patkar.
Patkar has rubbished the claims but the police maintains that the alleged Naxal Lingamram Kodopi also has links with two NGOs Vanvasi and Chetna and stays in Delhi.