On 22 April, the charred body of a 12-year-old domestic worker from the Karbi community was found outside her employer’s house in the Khaighar village of Assam’s Nagaon district. The Assam Police suspects that Rina, Prakash and Nayanmoni Borthakur—her employers from the Brahmin community—murdered her. Her family told us they had not received her post-mortem report till the time this report was published. The 12-year-old was a fourth-standard student from the Sar Kro Kudam Ronghang village in West Karbi Anglong district. Like many minors from tribal communities in her district, she migrated to a neighbouring district to work as a domestic worker in an upper-caste household so that she could afford to get educated. The police has arrested the suspects and said it is further investigating the case. Student groups from the Karbi community, that fall in the Scheduled Tribe category in Assam, have since been protesting for the police to take strict action and charge the suspects with rape.
Mongol Singh Ronhang, the victim’s 17-year-old brother, told me that she had been working for the Borthakurs for four years. “She went there in 2018,” he said. “We used to talk to her over phone and she would say that her studies were going well.” Ronhang said that she wanted to visit home during her school vacations, but the Borthakurs did not allow her even once in four years. “Even when she wanted, they did not let her come home,” he told us. “During Bihu, I asked her to come home, but she said that they won’t allow it.”
Ronhang told us that after Bihu this year, on 22 April, he had planned to visit Khaighar to meet her, but could not find any transport due to COVID-19 restrictions. He said the family’s only communication with his sister was through a phone owned by Rina Borthukar, Prakash’s wife. “I was making calls there, they did not pick the calls,” he said. “At around 2 in the afternoon, Prakash Borthakur called me and told me about the incident. Prakash Borthakur said that they asked her to have a meal, but she did not. He said, ‘We were having a meal and watching TV, when she took the kerosene can outside to the backyard. She poured kerosene on her body and burned herself.’ That’s what they said.”
Her brother told us that he immediately went to Khaighar along with his parents, other relatives and several people from his village. But he said the police did not allow them to see his sister’s body until after the post-mortem and shortly before the funeral on 23 April. “We reached Khaighar at around 5 pm,” he said. “When we reached, the police were there. Even the villagers”—from Khaighar—“were saying that at least the parents should be allowed to see her. The police did not let us enter the home.” He said they later found that the police had taken his sister’s body to Nagaon town.
Ronhang said that he believed that Prakash and Nayanmoni had raped his 12-year-old sister. “The people in Khaighar told us that those two raped her and killed her at night and she was burnt the next day,” Ronhang said. “They said that if she had committed suicide, she would at least cry for help when she was burning, but the villagers who live nearby did not hear any screams.” However, Ronhang said that they had only local reports as proof of sexual violence. “The police didn’t let us see the post-mortem report,” he added. The victim’s brother said that Prakash had himself gone to the police station and reported that the 12-year-old had died by suicide.