Bail granted to accused, case under investigation, CWC Kohima silent
DIMAPUR, DECEMBER 4: “What has happened to my cousin sister and the other girl, should not happen to any other child,” says Pursenla, 21-year old kin of Vivi. Pursenla, a maternal cousin of the victim, is firm on her stand – “There is no question of compromise. We didn’t file the FIR, but we stand with her.” Meanwhile, organizations both governmental and non-governmental, that exist solely to protect child rights and address issues of child abuse in Nagaland, are conspicuous by their silence over the case of child abuse.
A Kohima Police source informed that the accused, Matia, aged 52, a resident of Para Medical Colony, Kohima, who was arrested earlier is currently out on Interim Bail on medical grounds. The case is under investigation. Police also informed that a case has been registered under various Sections including the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The victim’s statement has also been recorded by a Judicial Magistrate under 164 CrPC. The accused, meanwhile, has denied all charges of physical abuse.
Vivi has been sent home from the child shelter in Dimapur to stay with her mother, Pursenla informed. She has made a good recovery, both physically and mentally since the time, she arrived at Dimapur after her escape on October 2.
For those not in the know, in the November 7 issue, Nagaland Page had carried an exclusive report under the headline – “Child abuse a worrying issue in Nagaland: Physically tortured minor girl accuses employer of abuse.” Vivi (name changed), a minor girl, who had been residing with a family in Kohima as domestic help had filed an FIR on November 2 last, with the help of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Dimapur, accusing her employer of severe physical abuse, as well as sexual harassment. The case was then been transferred to Women Police Station, Kohima, after Dimapur Police recorded the victim’s statement, and filed a Zero FIR.
Vivi’s statement had been first recorded by Sakhi One Stop Centre and Childline Dimapur, who then referred the case to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Dimapur, a statutory body under the Government of Nagaland. The abused child has been consistent in her statements to the various agencies, including Dimapur and Kohima Police.
An Ossification Test (age determination test) conducted on Vivi has confirmed that she is aged between 17-19. The test had to be conducted after the accused reportedly claimed that Vivi was not a minor. According to Pursenla, Vivi was born in 2003.
Vivi had run away from her employer’s home along with another minor and took shelter at her relative’s residence at 7th Mile, Dimapur. According to Pursenla, who spoke to Nagaland Page, both Vivi and the other minor had severe injuries when they arrived at her residence. Vivi’s paternal aunt had then intervened and informed the family of the accused of the whereabouts of the two girls.
While Vivi refused to go back, the other girl, reportedly a non-Naga (Kachari), was taken back to Kohima the same day. The girl too had severely swollen hands in photos taken by Pursenla with her mobile phone. Her phone is currently with Kohima Police, who had taken it for examination and evidence. “I managed to take photos of the injuries on the other girl too before she was taken back. Her hands were even more swollen from beatings than my sister,” informed Pursenla. “The girl was pleading to us to hide her, not let them take her away,” Pursenla said. According to Pursenla, the Kachari girl had told her that she doesn’t even recall her father’s face, and knew nothing about the whereabouts of her parents. A Police report mentions her parents are residents of Assam.
The Kachari girl is being kept in a child shelter after she was rescued by CWC, Kohima. According to a Police report, which Nagaland Page managed to access, the child had in her statement claimed that she has not faced abuse in the home of the accused. It would be pertinent to mention that the minor girl could be rescued from the home of the accused only after a delay of one month since she was taken back after her escape. All efforts by Nagaland Page to access the medical examination report of the minor have been futile. A source meanwhile has informed that evidence of physical abuse was found on medical examination of the minor. Nagaland Page has not been able to independently ascertain the information. Interestingly, the Chairperson of Child Welfare Committee, Kohima, has refused to share any information regarding the case despite multiple attempts by Nagaland Page to solicit details. “Don’t call me. I don’t know anything” was the Chairperson’s response when a Kohima Correspondent of Nagaland Page contacted her on November 10 last.
Vivi’s cousin sister, Pursenla, spoke at length on how the events leading to the current situation unfolded. According to her, Vivi is related to the husband of the accused on her father’s side. Vivi’s father had passed away before she was born. Her father’s younger sister took Vivi to her Kacharigaon residence in 2015 assuring that she would give her education. Vivi was studying in Class 3 in a school at Kacharigaon when the other sister of her father took her away to Kohima, even before she could appear for her final exams. “We were not informed, not even her mother. When we came to know that she was no more in Kacharigaon, we approached her aunt… The aunt who is our neighbour informed us that she (Vivi) was with her uncle, who is an Engineer, and she was being taken care of well. We even asked for any phone number to contact her (Vivi), but the aunt told us not to disturb her, and that she was being given a good education.” But going by what Vivi told her relatives, she had been admitted to a Government school in Kohima initially, but her schooling was discontinued after a few months.
Pursenla says Vivi broke down and was in an incoherent state of mind when she managed to reach the 7th Mile (Dimapur) residence of her maternal uncle. “For many days after she arrived, my sister barely spoke. Kapi kapi kina bohi thakishi, bhoi khai kina (she crouched in fear shivering.)” Going by what Vivi told her relatives between her bouts of panic attacks, the beatings started from the time she had entered the house (of the accused) in 2015.
Pursenla also claimed that the relatives of the accused have been approaching her family to work out a compromise, but they have refused. “They come in big cars. We are not well-to-do, but we do not want their money,” Pursenla asserted.
However, the accused, Matia, in her statement to the police has denied ever torturing or physically abusing Vivi, and the other minor, except at times when they needed to be disciplined. She claimed that Vivi had an affair with a non-local worker, and was in contact with “several guys.” Matia also alleged that Vivi had the habit of stealing money and also her cosmetics.
As mentioned earlier, Dimapur Police had confirmed that Vivi’s medical examination report showed evidence of “physically torture.” An activist who works with an NGO dealing with child rights, talking to Nagaland Page said that it is the usual line of defense of the perpetrators of child abuse to cast aspersions on the moral conduct of a girl child and accuse her of thefts. But even if the allegations are true, those cannot be justifications for child labour and child abuse.
Meanwhile Vivi has “significantly recovered” from the alleged physical and mental torture. Pursenla informed that the child shelter where Vivi had been lodged had taken good care of her. “She misses her friends and caregivers of the child shelter. But my sister is smiling again. She now wants to go back to school and continue her studies.”