How Assam accident became a 'gangrape' and sparked 'outrage'

Assam outrageWith sections of the media reporting it as a gangrape in a moving tempo, NCW member Nirmala Samant issued a statement saying the incident was a reminder of the December 16 Delhi gangrape. PTI

On November 22, when Uma Gogoi and other passers-by found a woman lying unconscious on NH 15, just 200 metres from the Boginadi police station in Lakhimpur district in eastern Assam, they believed she was an accident victim.

But two days later, when she succumbed to her injuries, and her family filed an FIR suspecting it to be rape and murder, it triggered outrage far beyond the borders of the state and prompted the National Commission for Women to equate it with the Delhi gangrape of December 2012.

Sangita Sarmah, as she was identified, died after being shifted to GNRC Hospital in Guwahati. About an hour after her death, her husband's elder brother Nitul Sarmah lodged an FIR in the Boginadi police station suspecting some unidentified men had tried to abduct her, raped her and then tried to murder her.

Police registered a case under Sections 365, 376 and 302 of the IPC, the first two sections relating to rape.

Investigations found that Sangita, 28, wife of Bitumoni Sarmah of Kulabali village, was on her way to fetch her six-year old daughter Arpita from school when she was found bleeding on the highway.

"I had seen her board a tempo. The tempo already had three men apart from the driver. I had also spoken to her before she boarded the tempo," Jimpi Chutia, a woman who runs a shop on NH 15, told The Indian Express.

Mahadeb Dorjee, whose paan-shop is about 100 metres from where Sangita was found, said he saw her lying face downwards and that she was bleeding from the right side of her head.

But as news of the FIR spread, groups such as the local students' union, Mahila Samiti and opposition parties took over and organised protests and road blockades, so much so that some even began equating it with the December 16 Delhi gangrape.

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