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When media reported about women activists busting a ‘prostitution’ racket on May 1, nobody had in the wildest dream thought that the vigilantes would land up in Tura jail a week later. The events unfolded so fast that at least three separate probes have been launched by different government agencies in the past four days so far. Would it be so had it been a simple case of moral policing? Are the jailed women activists solely responsible for brutal assault on the 12 girls? There is definitely more that what meets the eye in the whole episode revolving around prostitution.

The scene was hazy since the first report was published in the media. There was no mention of police role in the report about ‘capture’ of five girls from Chasingre on the night of May 1. The women NGOs, who now claim that the girls were handed over to them by police, were quoted by the media then and none mentioned about police. The women activists also picked up girls from their own homes in Tura. Parents did not lodge any missing complaints, meaning they were aware of the girls’ whereabouts. This aspect makes the case against the women activists weak since they would not be foolish to brutally torture the girls. In fact, activist Jaynie Sangma’s house where the girls were kept for over a week for ‘counselling’ had a good footfall from official teams to the victims’ parents. Nobody had any qualms. Teams of District Child Protection Unit and Meghalaya State Women Commission visited the house separately on May 8. They returned, peacefully. A few hours later, some ‘villagers’ ‘rescued’ the girls from the house and handed over to police. The first FIR was filed in the incident was by Jaynie Sangma about assault on her by the mob. It seems, police discovered lately that the girls were tortured and arrested Jaynie and four other activists the next day. There is a dubious version about the FIR. Initial reports said police filed a suo moto case, but later the district police chief said relative of a victim filed an FIR and the activists were arrested accordingly. The police website mentions Jaynie’s FIR, but not the other claimed by the official.

Amid these claims and counter claims, here comes the reference of a diary allegedly found from the girls. The diary allegedly contains names of influential people including politicians. What is more interesting is that militant groups too have jumped the bandwagon while taking different sides – some criticised women groups while others backed them slamming police and another militant group. It is utterly confusing at this moment to pinpoint as to who tortured the girls and what was the motive, if there was one at all. This question must be answered within one month, the deadline fixed for each of the three probes.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 14)

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