A group of villagers allegedly tonsured a 14-year-old girl, blackened her face and paraded her as a punishment for eloping with a man at a village in Gujarat’s Patan district, police said on Saturday. At least 22 people have been arrested so far for the alleged incident that took place in Harij village on November 10, an official said.
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has ordered special inquiry in the matter. Further investigation is handed over to the district level officer of social justice empowerment department. Patan district collector Suprit Singh Gulati and police chief Akshay Raj Makwana also instructed to take immediate action in this matter.
The man with whom the minor eloped was also booked for rape under the IPC and relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, among other charges, he said. As per the FIR registered on Friday, 35 accused were booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 509 (insulting modesty of woman) of the IPC, and provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, it was stated. Another FIR was registered against the person accused of eloping with the minor under relevant sections of the POCSO Act and IPC sections 363 (kidnapping), and 376 (3) (rape). As per the FIR, the girl was abducted and taken to Dakor in Kheda district where she was raped by the accused, police said.
Villagers belonging to the Vadi tribal community punished the girl by tonsuring her and blackening her face for eloping with her lover, which they claimed brought a bad name to the tribe, the official said. A video of the incident posted on social media shows the girl crying as men tonsured her and blackened her face to carry out a ritual to “purify” her. Villagers also paraded the girl and her lover in the village as a punishment.
.Police are still accessing and analysing the large number of videos in circulation and are hunting for more people seen in the videos.
The videos are highly disturbing with the woman heard screaming in pain even as the men exult triumphantly at the torture being inflicted on her. Police said that the nomadic tribe members had settled near Harij village about 15 years ago in a settlement. They enforced their own rules on community members.
While the incident took place on November 9, Patan police learnt about it on Friday after videos of the torture went viral. Patan SP Akshayraj Makwana on Friday issued orders to the Local Crime Branch and Harij police to investigate the videos and arrest all those seen torturing the woman.