WEST BENGAL, India (MCT) — Indian police have video footage and photographs of men gang raping a woman on the orders of a village elder in a case that shocked the country, according to two officers working on the case who have seen the material.
The footage and photographs were taken during the Jan. 20 attack when the woman was raped by as many as 13 men in a West Bengal village, according to the officers, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Police recovered the footage from mobile phones confiscated while arresting the men and it will be used to prosecute them, according to the officers.
The attack was the latest in a series of sexual assaults and gang rapes of women that have stained the image of the world’s second-most populous country. The village headman in rural eastern India ordered the Hindu woman to raped because she failed to pay her portion of a 50,000 rupee ($787) fine for having an affair with a Muslim married man from another community, according to police.
“Many of these men think they can get away with anything because they can get away with other crimes,” said Pradeep Gooptu, the founder-trustee of Haven, a charity that works to improve literacy in tribal communities. “There is a Talibanization of tribal politics, and we must stamp it out.”
Dipesh Ghosh, a lawyer for the detained men, could not confirm that his clients had shot the footage when reached by phone Jan. 26. Alok Rajoria, the most senior policeman in Birbhum, the district where the attack occurred, did not answer two calls to his mobile phone.
The victim, from a low-caste Hindu community, had an affair with a Muslim man in an area of the country where communities are deeply segregated, according to police. As punishment, villagers operating outside the law tied them to a tree in the center of the village and ordered them to pay the fine after a late-night show trial, a police report said.
“Since they are not going to give you the money, you can have fun with her or do whatever you like with her,” the village headman told others who had gathered, according to the police report of the woman’s testimony.
To compensate the victim, West Bengal’s state government has started construction on a house for the woman and her family, according to Monirul Islam, a lawmaker with All India Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in the state. He declined to comment further.
The home will be built about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from where the attack took place in the village, according to one of the police officers involved in the case. It will cost more than 1 million rupees ($15,750) and will have a consistent electricity and water supply, the police officer said.
India has been undergone an unprecedented national debate about the safety of women since the 2012 gang rape of a student in New Delhi who later died from her injuries. In the latest case that highlighted the dangers for women, a 51-year-old Danish tourist was gang raped close to the center of India’s capital.