The hapless tribal girl who was paraded naked across four villages in Birbhum earlier this year has been nominated for the National Bravery Award. She would be awarded by the President on the eve of Republic Day in Delhi.
Sunita Murmu, aged around 15, had been threatened for around three months against complaining about the torture. She was stripped and made to walk 8 km amidst hundreds of watching villagers and the beating of drums. She was beaten with sticks as soon as she stopped walking and little boys pelted her with stones all the way. Men pounced on her and molested her as people watched and jeered. Her fault’ was loving a boy from another community.
For four months, neither the girl nor her family lodged any complaint with police out of fear. But a 15-minute MMS clip of her ordeal, which was exposed in August, stirred the administration into action. Despite severe chiding from her home, she lodged a compliant with Rampurhat police in the first week of August.
Police arrested the accused men but they were released on bail. Since the disclosure of the incident, the girl had been living in a government home in Rampurhat. Birbhum DM Saumitra Mohan took the initiative to open a bank account in her name and a few lakh have already been deposited in it. Sunita can withdraw the amount when she turns 18. Neither did she want to go back home nor did her family members show any interest in taking her back.
“We had recommended her name to the Indian Council for Child Welfare for a bravery award. We thought she had shown enough courage to expose the culprits who had threatened her with dire consequence. Even her parents did not want to lodged a complaint and were afraid of social boycott. Despite knowing what could be in store for her in future, she dared identify the men during a police parade,” Mohan said.
The district administration received the consent letter signed by Gita Siddhartha, president of the Indian Council for Child Welfare, New Delhi, on Friday.