In one of the most heinous incidents, a 12-year-old girl from Karbi tribe was allegedly burnt alive in Assam’s Nagaon district last Thursday by her employers - Prakash Borthakur and his son Nayanmani Borthakur - after she requested them to let her go home (in the adjoining district - Karbi Anglong) to meet her parents on 22nd April 2021.
Twelve-year-old late Sumila Ronghangpi was working as a house help at Borthakur’s since she was seven. Borthakurs had promised Ronghangpi’s father to give shelter, food and education to Sumila for her labour.
The picture of the twelve-year-old went viral the same day in the Assam’s social media circles the day incident occurred, leaving the northeastern state in shock. It has been alleged that Sumila was also sexually abused by the accused number two – Nayanmani.
Speaking to the media Assam State Commission For Protection Of Child Rights (ASCPCR) chairperson Dr Sunita Changkakati, said that the minor was pregnant before she was allegedly set on fire.
In an exclusive conversation with Jaano Junction Executive Editor Nabhaneel, Karbi Student Association President Semson Teron revealed that “neighbours have claimed that sexual abuse of the girl started soon after Nayanmani came back home during lockdown a few months back,” he also added, “physical and verbal torcher of the dead tribal girl was a normal situation at the Borthakur house”. Teron informed that there is great disbelief in the ongoing investigation in the Karbi community, he claimed that even though the victim’s family asked to report the case under SCST(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the FIR has no mention of it.
While talking to Jaano Junction, law student and activist Sabin Rongpai told that “Sumila’s case is not an isolated one,” child labour, and torcher is a common practice, however, many such incidents are not highlighted. Ms Rongpai is one of the few activists who have been amplifying the voices seeking justice for Sumila. This incident has ignited protests in Assam’s digital and physical space.
#JusticeForSumilaRonghangpi has been trending in Assam the whole week. The anger is against the administration and media.Instagram content creator Sarem Timung, who has also released a video informing his followers about the incident, stressed on how “national media has failed in raising issues like this one” He has also accused media of not doing its job right. Mr Teron also questioned the silence of the CM Sarbananda Sonowal and Assam government of the alleged killing of Sumila.
Borthakurs, who are now under arrest, have denied the accusation and claimed that Sumila committed suicide. Talking to the activists and locals, Jaano Junction got an idea of distrust in the ongoing investigation. It’s been ten days since the death of Sumila while the family and activists still await the post-mortem reports.
Meanwhile, a memorandum submitted to the head of one-man enquiry committee Moloy Bora, by the joint organisation for justice to Sumila mentions that “at this time the post mortem report has not been made available, but the police have revealed that she was not pregnant. It is very suspicious that the body was not sent for further examination when the circumstances demanded that there be a thorough and detailed post mortem at the GMCH and investigation of the viscers at the forensic laboratory.
This detailed investigation may take weeks, but it seems the authorities were in a hurry to finish the matter and therefore they surreptitiously handed over the body to the ignorant parents, while the members of the various organizations were made to wait for the post mortem report which was later refused to them.
Jaano Junction tried to reach Nagaon SP and ASCPCR but their responses are still awaited. Sumila’s death has shocked the state and raised many questions.