New Delhi: A 26-year-old woman has accused Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and three others of raping her over a decade ago, when she was a minor.
In a plea moved before the Supreme Court, the woman, who is now married and a mother of two, has alleged that her family had been receiving threats from unknown people ever since she filed a complaint against the four accused in Itanagar four years ago.
Citing “both blatant and latent threats” against her life, she has requested the court for police protection.
When contacted by ThePrint, the chief minister’s office refused to comment on the matter as it is sub-judice.
Last year, Khandu had filed a defamation case against the woman in the Gauhati High Court. According to a report in the NorthEast Today, in March 2018, a judge had ordered an injunction restraining the woman or her representatives from “making any further defamatory statements or agitation against plaintiff (Pema Khandu) till returnable date or until further order whichever is earlier”.
‘Sedated, raped, beaten’
According to the complainant, the alleged gang rape occurred in July 2008, in the border district of Tawang.
In her plea, filed by advocate Sriram P. Wednesday, the petitioner has stated that a man named Phurma Lama lured her “to the Circuit House in Tawang with the promise of a government job”.
“…Mr Phurma Lama took the petitioner to the Circuit House, Tawang, in July 2008 stating that he will introduce her to some VIPs,” the plea reads.
At the Circuit House, it adds, the woman was introduced to three people, one of whom identified himself as “Mr Pema Khandu… a colonel in the armed forces”.
The others introduced themselves as “Mr Thupten Tashi, a teacher at the Government Higher Secondary School, Tawang, and Mr Dorjee Wangchu, assistant mineral development officer, Ziro”.
The teenager, the plea states, was then given soft drinks laced with sedatives, which caused her to fall unconscious. She was then gang-raped by all four men, it adds.
According to the complainant, she found herself unclothed when she regained consciousness. When she started screaming, Khandu allegedly “slapped her, warned her of dire consequences and threatened to cut her into pieces if she tried to disclose the incident to anyone”.
She says in her petition that she knew “from their (the perpetrators’) conduct that they were very powerful people”, and decided against filing a complaint, a decision she claims was also driven by fears about the implications for her reputation.
According to the woman, she next saw Khandu in 2012, when he was appointed the state tourism minister, which is when she realised who he really was.
Attempts to register FIR ‘thwarted’
The woman has claimed that her attempts to take the matter to its logical conclusion have been repeatedly thwarted.
According to the complainant, when she approached police in Tawang, they threatened to frame her and her husband in several false cases.
When she tried to file a complaint at a police station in Itanagar in December 2015, the plea states, the personnel refused to register an FIR.
According to her, she then moved the office of the Itanagar superintendent of police in January 2016 with a complaint against the officer in charge of the police station.
In May that year, she claims, she filed a plea before the chief judicial magistrate of the Papum Pare district, under which Itanagar falls, seeking direction to police to register an FIR based on her complaint.
However, her case was dismissed on grounds of jurisdictional issues, she says, as the alleged crime took place in Tawang. According to her, even the National Commission of Women (NCW) failed her.
In her petition to the Supreme Court, the woman has also sought “an opportunity to approach a forum in New Delhi [Delhi High Court] for… legal recourse against police inaction” in this matter.
Khandu is the son of former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu, a Congress leader who died in a helicopter crash eight years ago. A former Congress MLA, Khandu currently heads the northeastern state’s first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, having himself joined the saffron party in 2016.
The petition in the Supreme Court comes weeks before Arunachal Pradesh goes to polls, with the state scheduled to vote for both the parliamentary and assembly elections on 11 April.