Mamata removes top cop amid West Bengal rape outrage, victim stable

  • Surojit Ghosh Hazra, Hindustan Times, Bolpur (Birbhum)
  • Updated: Jan 24, 2014 02:24 IST
Trinamool-Congress-chief-and-West-Bengal-chief-minister-Mamata-Banerjee-at-a-press-conference-in-Kolkata-UNI

The 20-year-old woman allegedly gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of a salishi sabha (tribal council) in West Bengal Birbhum district is traumatised, but stable, according to a doctor treating her.



"We have given our primary report to the police. For the sake of investigation, we can't reveal it," Dr Asit K Biswas of Suri Sadar Hospital said on Thursday.

A court sent 13 persons arrested for allegedly gang-raping the woman on Tuesday to judicial custody for 14 days even as the ruling Trinamool Congress faced fierce criticism.

Amid widespread outrage, governor MK Narayanan advocated beatings for those guilty of raping the woman at Labhpur village of Birbhum, located around 185km northwest of Kolkata.

"We should have them (accused) arrested and corporal punishment should be given to them," Narayanan, a former national security adviser, said.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the removal of Birbhum superintendent of police C Sudhakar.

The opposition mounted an intense attack on the CM, who is in north Bengal and scheduled to return to Kolkata on Friday.

"Such incidents have increased manifold after the Park Street rape (February 2012) was described as concocted by the chief minister," state CPI(M) secretary Biman Bose said.

State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya alleged Trinamool people were involved in the crime. "All gram panchayats are controlled by the Trinamool… who are people who gave the rape orders? Are they Trinamool members? What did the Trinamool gram panchayat members do at that time? Why didn't they stop it?"

The Trinamool, battling a series of sex crimes against women over the past two years, condemned the gang rape. "We will seek strong punishment for the guilty," said party general secretary Mukul Roy.
Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said, "Rape is a social evil. We will dwell on ways to address the problem."

Women and child development minister Shashi Panja promised police protection for the woman and her family.

Read: Men skip village, women say girl was immoral, lied to take revenge

The woman’s plight put the Mamata Banerjee government under the spotlight yet again, barely days after a fitness centre employee was gang-raped in a moving vehicle in the heart of Kolkata.

The fitness centre employee was targeted even as the state grappled with the shocking Madhyamgram rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl towards the end of 2013. The minor was gang-raped twice, her family hounded out of her home and then she was set ablaze at their new residence.

The ruling Trinamool Congress has been battling a series of sex crimes against women over the past two years. West Bengal topped states in crimes against women in 2011 and 2012, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Amid the barrage of criticism over the Birbhum gang rape, the government also found itself wrong-footed in Bolpur court after the public prosecutor did not turn up to plead for police custody of the 13 accused, who were sent to judicial custody.

Public prosecutor Firoj Pal said he did come even though it was a state government holiday (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's birth anniversary), but was a bit late.

Dilip Ghosh, lawyer for the accused, however, said, "There was no public prosecutor inside the courtroom, and police didn't ask custody."

Usually, prosecutors ask for police custody for those accused of serious crimes to enable the police to question them.

"We have arrested all the accused and have done all that was needed. So we didn't ask for police custody," Birbhum superintendent of police C Sudhakar had told HT a few hours before the CM ordered his removal.

Detained throughout Monday before mass rape a day later
The 20-year old woman was gang-raped on Tuesday following the decision of a salishi sabha, which is being compared to khap panchayats in north Indian states. Khaps are feared for dispensing kangaroo court-style justice.

Falling in love with a man from outside her community and then failing to cough up Rs 50,000 fine imposed by the salishi sabha led to the woman being humiliated with the sexual assault, said a police official.

“According to the woman, the salishi sabha summoned her and her beloved on Monday and detained them through the day and night. After her family said they could not pay the fine, the salishi sabha allegedly ordered the mass rape on Tuesday,” Birbhum superintendent of police C Sudhakar had said on Wednesday.

Read: Tribal leaders support court, say girl lied

The woman told the police and journalists who visited her at hospital on Wednesday, “I lost count of how many men took turns to rape me. They were more than five. It could even be 10.

“It’s horrific. They (rapists) are all our neighbours and I call some of them as kaka (uncle) and some others as dada (elder brother) or bhai (brother).”

She said after her family said it could not pay the fine, Sunil Soren, head of the salishi sabha, ordered that “everyone present was free to have me”.

She said then the men, including Soren, took turns to rape her through the night.

Her family lodged a complaint with the police on Wednesday afternoon.

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