A string of acid attacks and two deaths in a day have rung alarm bells in the corridors of power and left Bengal rattled, raising a serious question mark over the police’s efficiency in curbing the illegal sale of acid.
While Jyotsna Das of Tarakeswar in Hooghly district, a widow in her fifties, died at MR Bangur Hospital in Kolkata on Sunday morning after battling for life for two weeks, 30-year-old Sikha Ghosh, a deaf and mute woman of Tehatta in Nadia district, died later in the day after suffering acid burns on Saturday.
Sikha’s case took a bizarre twist with Nadia’s superintendent of police, SR Jhajharia, claiming that she had died of burns suffered in a fire incident and not an acid attack. However, he later said, “We are ready to incorporate the acid attack angle and investigate the case accordingly if the victim’s family lodges a specific complaint of acid attack.”
The accused, a local, had not been arrested till reports last came in. “We have lodged a police complaint. We have told the police about the man we suspect. He had been harassing Sikha for quite some time. He became very angry when we had protested and resisted his evil acts,” Sikha’s brother, Prasenjit Ghosh, said.
In the third incident, a woman living in Nischintipur area of Kalna in Burdwan district had acid thrown at her through an open window of her house on Friday. Her mother-in-law also suffered partial burns in the attack. The family lodged a complaint against four locals, including a distant relative, with Kalna police on Saturday but the police said that all the accused were absconding.
Members of Jyotsna’s family at Tarakeswar’s Piyasara Colony said that a local man, Noor Ali, had been making indecent proposals to her which she had been consistently refusing. “The matter was also reported to local politicians but no one took any action. We want the culprit hanged,” Jyotsna’s sister told HT. Ali was arrested on July 25, a day after the attack, on the basis of the victim’s statement to the police. He is in judicial custody. Local police officers said that following Jyotsna’s death, they would now charge him with murder.
State women’s commission chief Sunanda Mukhopadhyay criticized the police for the situation. “The police have been inactive. Acid is sold without restrictions. The conviction rate is low which encourages perpetrators to ruin lives without fear,” she said.