A 17-year-old rape survivor of Dakneshwari-7, Saptari died by suicide on Tuesday after the village Panchas did not allow her to file a complaint with the police, pressurizing her to resolve the issue within the community.

A Pancha is a member of self-proclaimed councils in villages. Usually, a group of five influential older men acknowledged by the community are called the Panchas and they act as local governing bodies despite having no legitimacy.

According to District Police Chief SP Rajendra Dhamala, the police learned about the incident only after the teenage girl’s death. He said that an investigation into the incident had been initiated.

“The body will be taken to Dharan-based B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences for post-mortem,” SP Dhamala said.

As per the preliminary investigation, the girl was gang-raped by four local men at 9:00 am on Monday while she was headed to her paddy field to observe the water-level in the field.

The National News Committee, quoting the victim’s mother, said that the teenager was mentally stressed after some villagers gathered to stop her while she was on her way to the police station to file a complaint against the four perpetrators.

Police have arrested the so called Panchas – Jayakanta Mandal, Vasudev Mandal and Satyanarayan Mandal – for stopping the victim from going to the police office and forcing her to resolve the case within the community by making the perpetrators ‘provide compensation’ amount for the heinous crime they had committed.

The arrested have been kept in the custody of Area Police Office, Kalyanpur.

SP Dhamala informed that the Panchas had decided to make accused men pay Rs 55,000 as ‘compensation’ for the teenager.

The search for suspected rapists and others involved in the incident is ongoing, said SP Dhamala.