India’s ruling party member arrested over accusations of brutally torturing and enslaving tribal worker

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A member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been arrested after she was booked for allegedly physically torturing and enslaving a tribal woman who worked at her house.

Seema Patra, a member of the BJP in Jharkhand state, was suspended from the party on Tuesday after a video surfaced on social media in which the woman identified as Sunita alleged that she was tortured and imprisoned for years.

The incident was brought to light by the Twitter handle The Dalit Voice, which shared a video of an injured Sunita lying in a hospital bed, bruised and injured with several teeth missing.

“The brutality that happened to this tribal woman in Jharkhand is extremely painful, for eight consecutive years she was imprisoned and tortured, her teeth were blown out, she was given urine, she was burnt with iron rods several times. The accused must be hanged,” the tweet said.

“The incident is from Ranchi, Jharkhand, Retired IAS [Indian Administrative Service] wife and BJP leader Seema Patra kept tribal sister Sunita imprisoned in the house for eight years and was tortured.”

In the video Ms Sunita alleged that she was held captive, tortured and beaten with rods and an iron pan.

She said that she was forced to lick urine off the floor.

“She also broke my teeth with an iron rod,” she said.

According to her Facebook profile, Ms Patra was the state convenor for the federal government’s flagship programme Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save daughters, educate daughters).

She was a member of the national working committee of the BJP’s women wing and is the wife of Maheshwar Patra, a retired civil servant in the federal government.

During her arrest, Ms Patra claimed that she was being framed due to political reasons.

“These are false allegations, politically motivated allegations. I have been implicated,” she was quoted as saying to news agency ANI.

On Tuesday, an FIR [First Information Report, usually the first step of any police investigation in India] was filed against Ms Patra.

She was booked under the SC/ST [Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes] Prevention of Atrocities Act, along with other sections.

Also on Tuesday, Jharkhand governor Ramesh Bais pulled up the state police for "inaction" and asked the DGP to submit a report over the incident within two days.

According to the FIR, the case was lodged after a man named Vivek Anand Baskey, a government employee, received a message from Ms Patra’s son Ayushman, detailing the physical violence going on against Ms Sunita, reported Press Trust of India.

The FIR also states that Ms Patra allegedly got her son admitted to a psychiatric facility after he started protesting against the torture being meted out to Ms Sunita.

“With the help of the police, the son was taken to a psychiatric hospital where he shouted at his mother: ‘You made her [domestic help] drink her own urine. What kind of inhuman person you are’,” it says.

Ms Sunita is believed to be a resident of Gumla in Jharkhand and joined work at the Patras a decade ago.

“It is only because of him that I am alive,” she is seen saying in the video referring to Ms Patra’s son.