10 years on, justice still eludes Lakshmi Orang

By Manjori Borkotoky

Little had she known that morning when she had come to Guwahati for the first time in her life, that this visit will change her life forever.

Stripped in public, Lakshmi had to run naked on the streets of Guwahati, fearing for her life. 24th of November marked 10 years of the horrifying incident but justice still eludes.

She was accompanying other members of her community to participate in the protest organized by the Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) to demand Scheduled Tribe status for all the Adivasis of Assam. It was supposed to be a peaceful protest, but they were asked to go back; they did not have necessary permissions to stage a demonstration on the streets of Guwahati. This angered the members of AASAA and they were just getting ready to head back, while chanting slogans. It was then that the trouble began. A motorcycle borne youth hit one of the female protestors and this angered the AASAA members further. An altercation led to violence that escalated rapidly. Locals came out to the streets to chase away the protestors. The protestors were mercilessly beaten and they fell, one after the other on the main road in Beltola, that afternoon. Lakshmi was clueless and scared when a group of vultures descended upon her. They kicked her in the stomach and slapped her. They hit her on the head and tore off her clothes. She was mortified, but all she could do was run towards the rest of the people whom she had accompanied.

Her getting out of this place alive seemed more important than trying to pick up the pieces of her scattered modesty.

Onlookers clicked pictures of this young girl running naked on the streets of Guwahati that afternoon. Members of the press who had gathered there as soon as they got wind of the incident filmed her run of shame. The photographs and videos of Guwahati’s local goons kicking her and stripping her haunted the entire nation for quite sometime.

But all those photographs and videos were not enough for justice to prevail when she appealed. Not even one of the three accused were arrested despite all the hue and cry raised by activists and civil society members.

Speaking to TIME8 Lakshmi rues the fact that she will probably have to give up the fight. “I do not have enough money to knock on the door of the Supreme Court. Here they said the footage and photographs that were published in media were not enough evidence to arrest and punish those who put me through that trauma,” Lakshmi said.

The nation had forgotten her till UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s fan page had recently posted her photographs again. They had stirred up a controversy by claiming that the photo was of a Hindu woman who was stripped by congress workers for allegedly raising slogans in support of the BJP and PM Narendra Modi in West Bengal. The post had left Lakshmi humiliated, once again and she had filed a defamation case against the UP CM and a BJP MP from Assam, RP Sarmah who had allegedly shared the post.

But that died down and with due course of time things began to settle down. But Lakshmi, who survived the nightmare, is still hopeful.

With inputs from Nilotpal Dutta

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. TIME8 neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)