Nirban Ray

On August 19, 2021, Harendranath Ray, an old Koch-Rajbongshi man from Kurirpar (nearby Gauripur) of Dhubri district committed suicide as he couldn’t bear the brunt of the humiliation of her daughter suffered in the hands of Assam police in its custody at Gauripur Police station. His daughter, a Koch Rajbongshi woman of about 30 years was so brutally and barbarically tortured by Gauripur Police in their police station that she was unable to stand on her feet to walk out from the police station. Seeing this inhuman brutalization of his own daughter in a police station and realising the utter helplessness and powerlessness of his identity the old man chose to end his life.

His daughter Pratima Ray was working as a maid in the house of a district magistrate of Dhubri. When it was found that a “cup” was lost from his house, the magistrate relieved Pratima from work on suspicion of theft. He then complained to the police and since then Pratima and her father Harendranath Ray had to go through enormous everyday tortures as the Gauripur Police suspected Pratima of stealing the “cup” and often called them for questioning. For more than ten days the everyday torture of Assam police to the poor powerless family continued.

And on August 19, violating even the basic minimum dignity of a woman, Assam Police exercised its savagery on Pratima Ray with pride inside the Gauripur Police station in order to appease the Dhubri district magistrate- which although could not bring the lost “cup” back but it did succeed in the institutional murder of Pratima Ray’s father, a helpless, powerless Koch Rajbongshi old man.

This dreadful incident of barbaric brutality of Assam police to a Koch Rajbongshi woman and her father as usual was not able to get any attention from the mainland Assamese media and the Assamese civil society. But the almost unnoticed case received a little momentum when a few Koch Rajbongshi organisations and civil society groups approached Pratima Ray for support and they also initiated some protests for justice.

But, will Pratima Ray get justice? In fact, do the likes of Pratima Ray, a peripheral woman from a marginalized community ever get justice? And given the socio-economic and political situation of Koch Rajbongshis of Assam in general and of Koch Rajbongshi women in particular, it is rather imperative to ask – will the Koch Rajbongshis of Assam ever get justice? The question of justice for Pratima Ray is not therefore merely a question of juridical justice of an individual case alone. On the contrary, justice for Pratima Ray is a quagmire of lost dignity of the community she belongs and the identity she possesses.

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