A 21-year-old girl named Shubh Laxmi had just been groped and molested by bikers on her way from college for the fourth time. The men should be punished but she did not know how and then she poured her heart out in a Facebook post.
According to a report in media, Ms Laxmi has consented to her name being revealed and narrated how she was sexually assaulted, and how it had left her angry, yet helpless.
“I am afraid to step out,” the college student wrote in the moving note to friends and followers alike.
Crimes against women have spiked in Assam in recent years. In 2015, for instance, Assam is at the top of the list of states with high rates of crime against women, next only to Delhi. For every 100,000 women, there were 148 crimes in Assam against a national average of 54. Over the last 15 years, over 22,000 women have reported rapes.
By the next day, February 9, street protests erupted, initially in Jorhat and soon enough, across the state. The Assam assembly was in session, and a lawmaker echoed the demand for justice in the House too.
A senior minister in the Sonowal government Chandra Mohan Patowary spoke his mind later, in an attempt to brush aside Shubh Laxmi’s ordeal.
“She is a member of the SFI,” he said. The Students Federation of India is the students’ wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “She should not have posted all this on social media. She should have gone to police first,” the minister added.
Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi too lent his support.
“The State Govt should ensure to protect the rights of every girl irrespective of political beliefs. The law is not for BJP-ABVP-RSS,” Gogoi tweeted.
The sharp reaction has put Patowary on a back foot. But there is no apology. The outrage on the streets, and on social media was immediate. Any suggested that the minister apologise. Her post, that has had over 3,500 shares, had struck a chord with thousands of students in Jorhat district of Assam, and beyond. Shubh Laxmi too responded, in another post on social media.
The police have finally registered a case, and started a probe to identify the molesters. We hope that Shubh Laxmi might get justice.