Nadia rape: CBI starts probe, victim’s father says accused took body at gunpoint

Updated on Apr 14, 2022 05:00 AM IST

Brajagopal was arrested on April 10, a day after the girl’s family registered a complaint, accusing him of rape.

The son of a TMC panchayat member is the main accused in the alleged Nadia rape case. (PTI)
The son of a TMC panchayat member is the main accused in the alleged Nadia rape case. (PTI)
By, Kolkata

The father of a 14-year-old girl, who died after she was allegedly gangraped in West Bengal’s Nadia district last week, on Wednesday alleged his daughter’s body was taken away for cremation at gunpoint by the prime accused, even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered its first FIR in the case.

The son of a Trinamool Congress (TMC) panchayat member Samarendra Gayali, Brajagopal, is the main accused in the alleged incident which has triggered a political furore across the state.

“Brajagopal Gayali held a gun to my chest and took away my daughter’s body to cremate her within an hour of her death. They did not even let me leave the house,” the victim’s father told a news channel.

Brajagopal was arrested on April 10, a day after the girl’s family registered a complaint, accusing him of rape.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the ruling party over the allegation made by the victim’s father.

“This is the actual state of affairs in Bengal. A rape victim’s body is cremated by the accused while the father is held at gun point. No wonder people in the districts live in constant fear,” state BJP chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya told HT.

Hitting back, TMC national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said: “I want to ask a question since the TMC’s name is being dragged into this case for political reasons. Did the victim’s father say that TMC workers forcefully cremated the body? Or, did he say that he faced a threat from the police or the TMC? The accused is Brajagopal who was arrested and charged under appropriate sections of the Indian Penal Code by the local police. He is not a TMC worker.”

According to police, the girl, a Class 9 student in Hanskhali, had gone for a birthday party hosted by Brajagopal on April 4 and returned home, unwell. She died the following morning reportedly due to excessive bleeding and was cremated in the village crematorium without any post-mortem or death certificate.

On April 9, the girl’s family registered a complaint against the TMC leader’s son, following which Brajagopal was arrested and booked for rape, murder and tampering of evidence.

On Monday, the incident sparked a political storm after chief minister Mamata Banerjee appeared to dismiss it as a “love affair”. Banerjee appeared to suggest that the victim and the main accused were in a consensual relationship even as she sought to draw a distinction between her administration and those run by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Brajagopal’s friend, Prabhakar Poddar, who was present at the birthday party, was arrested on Tuesday. Following his interrogation, police booked the two accused on charges of gang rape, a district police officer said on condition of anonymity. They have also been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the officer added.

Since the allegations became public last week, opposition politicians have made a beeline for the victim’s village, roughly 120 km from state capital Kolkata. The BJP also observed a 12-hour bandh in the area on Monday. Demonstrations by opposition parties were also held in several parts of the state, including Kolkata.

On Tuesday, the high court directed the CBI to take over the probe from the state police and submit a preliminary report on the case before it on May 2.

The court was listening to a petition filed through advocate Phiroze Edulji, seeking a probe by the central agency into the incident. The petitioner drew the court’s attention at the state police’s alleged failure to collect vital evidence.

“The central agency wrote to Nadia superintendent of police, seeking a copy of the FIR the police at Hanskhali, where the alleged incident took place, had registered,” a CBI official familiar with the development said, seeking anonymity.

The victim’s family was taken to a district hospital after they complained of feeling unwell.

“I was pressured not to lodge a police complaint after my daughter died. I was scared. I am happy that the CBI has taken up the case,” the victim’s father said.

The alleged gangrape is the latest in a string of crimes where the accused are linked to the state’s ruling party and comes just weeks after nine people were burnt alive in Birbhum district following the murder of a TMC leader.

The Calcutta high court has directed the CBI to probe most of these crimes. Besides the Hanskhali rape, the CBI is probing the March 21 massacre of nine villagers in Birbhum district, the murder of TMC leader Bhadu Sheikh that triggered the massacre, Congress councilor Tapan Kandu’s murder in Purulia district on March 13, the suspected suicide by Kandu’s friend Niranjan Baishnab on April 4 and alleged irregularities in recruitment of staff by the West Bengal School Service Commission a few years ago.

Banerjee has repeatedly defended her administrative acumen and sought to differentiate her state from northern heartland provinces, especially on issues of women’s safety, but the recent crimes allegedly involving partymen has tarnished her record.

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