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Undeterred, Rape Victim Decides To Fight Back

IMPHAL, Mar 13: ‘‘Like me, my husband is also blind. Under the impression that we would not be able to fight back, my chastity had been violated. But I have resolved not to go back until the culprit gets his due punishment’’.

These are the words of Thokchom Ranita (33), a blind woman, who has been taking shelter along with her husband and their children at the mission compound of Jiribam after the ghastly incident on May 4, 2010 at Karjopunji, a small hamlet in Cachar, located 7 kms from Jiribam.

What is even more galling is that after she was raped, Ranita and her husband Mansingh Bhagat, who is also blind, came under heavy pressure to wrap up the matter and even offered monetary compensation and the out-dated system of penalty ‘Ok Kongba’ passed by the Village Panchayat

The couple was staying along with their two sons, who fortunately have normal vision, in a small flat-roofed hut constructed along a hill cliff at Karjopunji. The couple reared four pigs as their only means of livelihood.

It was on the pretext of taking her to the spot where Arum plants (use in preparation of feed for pigs) are growing, that the rapist identified as Thayamoi Namsodoi, a Bangali man, took her deep inside a jungle and committed the crime.

Six days after the incident, Ranita mustered courage and lodged a complaint with the Cachar Police Station. Accordingly, Thayamoi Namsodoi was arrested, but after three months in jail, the rapist has been released on bail.

Now, Thayamoi has been sending many middlemen to Ranita to convince her to withdraw the case and even assuring that Thayamoi is willing to offer upto Rs 20,000 for that.

Interacting with The Sangai Express, Ranita, who came to attend the International Women’s Day observance at Tamenglong district headquarters on March 8, said that she had never imagined that anyone would think of committing such despicable crime on a blind woman like her.

‘The incident has left me shattered. I had even thought of committing suicide. But thinking of my children, I could not,” Ranita said.

Originally hailing from Toubul in Bishnupur district, Ranita started having problems in her eyes following some infections while still young.

She had undergone operation to correct her vision. But instead of any improvement, she gradually lost her sight and became blind.

Ranita, who like any other children used to attend classes and played around, cried a lot when she learnt the harsh truth of her life.

It was with the help of one woman staying at Kwakeithel area of Imphal, whom Ranita lovingly addressed as Eche Be, that Ranita came to study in the blind school at Takyel and learnt all the required life-skills.

It was also in this school that Ranita came to know of Mansingh Bhagat, who later became her husband.

Though a Bihari, Mansingh Bhagat was born and brought up in Jiribam. He too lost his sight during childhood from a similar eye infection.

After studying upto class X, Ranita and Mansingh Bhagat tied the knot in a Church on April 15, 2002.

With family members opposed to her marriage to a man of another community and religious background, Ranita has been excommunicated for life by her parents.

At first, the young couple stayed in Ukhrul and their first son was born there.

Later, they came to Imphal and stayed in a rented house at Tera Sayang.

Mansingh Bhagat is a skilled artisan. He can make beautiful handicraft items. He is also good in playing musical instruments. But financial constraints have forced him to give up all these activities which are dear to his heart.

With a financial assistance of Rs 5000 from a Minister, the young couple and their two sons have been advised to go to Jiri-bam and stay there along with some relatives of the Minister.

However, the relatives took away the money given to them by the Minister. With the Minister also not paying attention to their well-being any more, the couple was finally chased out from the house by the relatives.

With no place to go, they took a room on rent  at Kalinagar paying Rs 400 per month before they finally came to Karjopuri village in Cachar in May 2010.

The rape took place within a few days of coming to Karjopunji.

A complaint over the rape had also been lodged with the village chief of Karjopunji. In his judgment, the village chief only directed the culprit to pay Rs 1000 as compensation and performed “Ok Kongba (offering of a Pig for community feasting), which was the practice earlier. The judgment however did not give sense of justice to Ranita. She said that if the rape victim had been from some other community, the compensation amount would be not less than Rs 5000 besides offering of the Pig.

Not happy with the judgment, Ranita decided to contact a Pastor to put up her case. One day, she came out of the house on the pretext of sending her sons to study Modern Mission School at Jiribam and telephoned the Pastor.

Subsequently, Ranita left the village and came to stay on rent in the mission compound, Jiribam, along with her husband and children. There, her husband started making Mora (Bamboo and Can stools) to earn income for the family. At present, the couple has also undergone training in manufacturing soap, detergent, dish wash powder, etc. This has given a new hope in the family.

Ranita recalled that at one time, they were so poor that they could not even have two square meals a day. There were many nights, she and her husband slept with empty stomach after giving whatever they had to their children as there was not enough food for all of them.

‘‘Our two sons are our guides. They take us everywhere we go. But it is sad that they are missing their childhood and the playfulness that any child would expect along with their parents’’, Ranita lamented.

Recalling of the rape incident, Ranita said, ‘If I were not blind, that man would not survive that day. On that fateful day, I did not know where to run and what to do. Still I tried by best to protect myself and inflicted injuries on the man.’’.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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