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[From Ch. Hmar, Special Arrangement with NEICICDS]

Haflong, Aug 1, 2009: Ms. Ralhnezo Faihriem, a 30 year old Hmar woman from Muolhoi, Haflong was molested by an AK- 47 toting Sikh soldier from the 8th Sikh Regiment stationed at Haflong, around noon at Haflong market, North Cachar Hills, Assam on the 28th of July while she was selling cloths at her shop. On being indecently approached and molested by the soldier who came to her on the pretext of buying an undergarment, the lady in anger slapped, chased and stoned the soldier. An apology was promptly offered to Ms. Ralhnezo by the soldier’s Commanding Officer.

The incidence was strongly taken up by the media, Civil Society groups like North-East India Centre for Indigenous Culture and Development Studies (NEICICDS), Indigenous Peoples Forum (IPF), Hmar Inpui and women right groups demanding a full apology from the 8th Sikh Regiment along with assurance that no further incidence of such violations of human rights, especially among women by government soldiers will no happen again.

In response to the outcry of the media and Civil Society groups, the top brass of the 8th Sikh Regiment tendered a formal apology to the victim today at her house in the presence of members of the press, NEICICDS, IPF, Hmar Inpui and some other civil society leaders.

Cases of molestations, rapes and other forms of wanton and unabashed human right violations among indigenous peoples in North- East India by the Indian army is continuing unchecked but unreported, thanks to the lack of effective means and opportunities to do so.

Ms. Ralhnezo’s case is one of the many instances. Fortunately, the incidence could not be hushed up anymore by the government as a result of the bravery and courage of the lady coupled with the prompt interventions by the media and civil society groups.

Ms. Ralhnezo, when interviewed by NEICICDS yesterday said, "I want women to be respected. Women need to be brave and have the courage to fight for their rights and dignity, no matter what the odds. I just hope what happened will be a wake up call for my fellow women who are also suffering or have suffered the same violations, discriminations, manipulations and indignity. We must earn respect and dignity through our own actions, integrity, courage and bravery and not wait upon others to do it for us.”

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