On 3 April 1944, constable Kanthiram Chutia took a 20-year-old girl’s body to the Assistant Surgeon of Jorhat for Post Mortem. The girl was Bhedew Ahomoni of Chowdang Gaon, Jorhat whose vagina showed visible marks of violent penetration and bleeding. The Assistant Surgeon declared in the post-mortem report, “the postmortem signs are compatible with death due to suffocation and shock as a result of rape”.
Bhedew Ahomoni was one of those women who had to sacrifice her life because India was colonized and thus Indian lives were cheap.
Slice of History
In 1944, the British Empire was facing its most difficult challenge from the Indian National Army (INA) of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Indian soldiers of the British Army were joining him in great numbers forcing the Empire to take the help of American soldiers to fight against INA. Soldiers of the USA army were stationed in Assam and other frontier provinces to fight INA. They were called the United States Forces at the India-Burma Theater.
These US soldiers were fighting against a revolutionary force of Netaji and thus believed in treating Indians in the most inhuman fashion possible.
On 2 April 1944, two US soldiers, Percy Beaver, and John W William entered the home of Khutiram Goanbora and threatened him with guns to force him to hand over women of the house to them. In fact, during their trial at a military court, they admitted: “their presence at the house of the complainant (Khutiram) for purposes of sexual experiences”. Can you believe that they were exonerated even after this admission?
Khutiram resisted the soldiers on which one started beating him while the other took his daughter, Bhedew Ahomoni, to a room and raped her. The rapist soldier suffocated and beat her to death while raping her. Khutiram contacted the police. They started the investigation only to know that these rapists couldn’t be tried by the colonial court if they were any worse. Since the US army was fighting the nationalist INA, its soldiers enjoyed impunity from laws.
A military court was convened which declared that Percy Beaver and John W William did not kill Bhedew “and that it could just as readily assumed that claimant died from natural causes”. Both the soldiers were exonerated of the charges and punished for being out of barracks during the duty hours. They were imprisoned for two months and ordered to pay $ 30 for the ‘grave offense’ of being ‘out of bounds’.
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You must be wondering, being exonerated of murder charges still did not prove that they did not rape. They boldly admitted that they were there for sexual experiences with village women. It shows how normal it was for them to rape Indian women. In this case, they claimed that they did not rape and the girl died of cardiac arrest. ‘The court’ overruled the postmortem report which established the rape as the cause of death based on what these soldiers told the court.
India should remember and pay tribute to these women like Bhedew who sacrificed their lives for national independence.