Death and Deprivation

Delhi police trips on misogyny and prejudice yet again in investigating the death of Reingamphi Awungshi, a 21 year old girl from Northeast who was found dead in Delhi on May 29 writes NEHA DIXIT

Fresh mangoes were carefully laid on the kitchen slab next to the pressure cooker on the gas stove. The phone charger was still on. Shoes, all types, flip flops, ballerinas, slip-ons were neatly displayed on a small cane rack. This small cane rack, found in the households of all newcomers in Delhi, is symbolic of the aspirations and enthusiasm with which people flock to the national capital.

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Reingamphi, 21, was found dead in this two room ground floor flat in B Block, Chirag Dilli at 2 pm on May 29.
Yesterday, the police broke open the bolted door after Reingamphi did not respond to the repeated calls by her landlord. She was found lying on the bed with injuries on her face, nose and toes with the cell phone still in her hand.

Her cousins, who live in South extension, informed the Malviya Nagar Police station about the incident. It’s been over 24 hours and the police is yet to register an FIR. The investigating officer Dinesh Singh declared last evening, “Nature of wounds suggests that a portion of body may have been eaten up by rats. The mattress was on the floor and we have also found rat droppings in the adjoining flat. Prima facie it appears to be a case of suicide.”
The police’s assumption is based on the fact that empty wrappers of Spasmocip Plus (16 tablets) and Meftal-Spas (12 tablets) were found in the dustbin. These tablets are used for treating stomach cramps. Binalakshmi Nepram founder of the NGO, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network informs, “We have been told by the SHO, Vijay Pal, that these girls from northeast work in spas and that’s why these incidents take place.” The SHO Vijay Pal also told Reingamphi’s cousins that the FIR will only be registered after the post mortem is conducted.

Reingamphi came to Dellhi from Ukhrul district in Manipur over a year back. Living on a monthly rent of Rs 7,000, she was indeed working at a spa in South Delhi till sometime back.

The police’s apathy and prejudice in Reingamphi’s death probe is a reminder of the murder of Ramchanpy Hongray’s murder around the same time in 2009. Incidentally, both of them belong to the same ethnic minority called the Tangkhul Naga tribe. Ramchanpy was found burnt to death in the kitchen of her Munirka house. Her stalker, Pushpam Sinha, was pursuing PHD in Wave Mechanics from IIT Delhi. When Ranchanpy opposed his sexual advances and threatened to complain to the police, Pushpam thrust her on the gas stove and burnt her to death. Says Bina Lakshmi, “Even before the post mortem was conducted in Ramchanpy’s case, the police declared it an accident claiming that the gas cylinder blasted while she was cooking which led to her death. They are trying to insinuate the same in Reingamphi’s case.”

Reingamphi’s parents, poor farmers in a remote village in Uhkrul district in Manipur Delhi have been informed about their daughter’s death but are too old to come down to Delhi. Her cousin, Thotriethan, who is currently following up with the police investigation proceedings says, “The main door was shut even when the back door of the house was open. The police have chosen to turn a blind eye to it.” Allegedly, the landlord’s brother-in-law was stalking her.

The SHO Vijay Pal and Investigating officer Dinesh Singh have refused to speak on the record. The post mortem is being conducted at AIIMS.

Reingamphi’s death is a bleeding cue. A cue for the misogynist, moralistic, prejudiced attitude of the police. Towards single women, those from the northeast and otherwise who are clubbed as ‘loose women’ who ‘deserve it.’ It is also an attempt to dissuade women from remote parts of the country to think of exploring another life in a big city. And most importantly, it is a telling tale of the brazenness with which the police violate laws by not even registering an FIR and say ‘they work in spas and that is why it happens.’

Neha Dixit

Neha Dixit is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi, India. She covers development, gender and conflict in South Asia. She has worked in multiple mediums including online, print and television and have reported for Tehelka, Outlook, Motherland, Fountain Ink, Open, Mail Today, India Today, Headlines Today.