Bengal gang rape: Mamata removes top cop amid outrage
Amid widespread outrage over the brutal gang rape of a tribal woman allegedly at the behest of a kangaroo court in Birbhum district, the West Bengal government Thursday found itself cornered over its handling of the issue. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later ordered the removal of the top district police officer.
Superintendent of Police C. Sudhakar was shifted out in a bid to salvage matters.
The alleged rape took place Monday night in Subalpur village in Birbhum district, 180 km from Kolkata. The 20-year-old woman was allegedly raped by more than a dozen men following orders of a kangaroo court which found her "guilty of having an affair with a man outside her community".
While police arrested all 13 people the woman had accused in her complaint, a local court sent the accused to 14 days judicial custody after police did not seek custody nor any public prosecutor appeared.
"Neither any public prosecutor appeared nor police sought custody of the accused. So the court of sub-divisional judicial magistrate, Bolpur, Pijush Ghosh sent them to 14 days jail custody," victim's counsel Dilip Ghosh said.
While opposition parties launched a scathing attack on the Banerjee government over the gang rape, police's refusal to seek custody of the accused added fuel to fire.
The Congress, Left Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party questioned the role of police and accused the government of being hand in glove with criminals.
"Only because this government has been patronising and harbouring criminals, that not a single day passes when incidents of rape and molestation do not occur," said Left Front chairman Biman Bose.
"It is matter of utter shame for us that despite having a woman chief minister, women are repeatedly being subjected to brutalities," said state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya.
He said the party will stage demonstrations outside all police stations Jan 28 besides organising protest marches in the city Jan 31 onwards.
"Police not seeking custody of the accused is a clear case of how the administration is hand in glove with criminals and extending political patronage to them," state BJP president Rahul Sinha said.
With Banerjee ordering the police officer's removal, police subsequently said they will approach the court seeking custody of the accused.
"We will approach the court as soon as possible seeking custody of the accused," said Inspector General of Police (Western Zone) Siddh Nath Gupta.
The woman, who is undergoing treatment at the Suri Sadar Hopsital, said she was left at the mercy of the men after she was unable to pay Rs.50,000 as fine demanded by the headman for having an affair with a man outside her community.
Describing her ordeal, the woman said the headman ordered the rape.
"Following his orders, at least 10-12 people, including (some) members of a single family, continuously raped me...," the woman said.
Hospital authorities described her condition to be stable but critical while Women and Child Welfare Minister Shashi Panja, who called up the victim, has assured all help from the government including monetary compensation.
Reminiscent of Mukhtaran Mai who suffered an identical fate in Pakistan in 2002, the heinous incident in Bengal has attracted widespread condemnation.
"The government is firm and is for strictest action against the culprits. Rape is a social malaise and we shall combat it politically, socially and administratively," Trinamool leader Mukul Roy said.
Governor M.K. Narayanan suggested inflicting "corporal punishment" on the culprits.
While the state women's panel has taken cognizance, the National Commission for Women too will send a probe team and demand an action taken report from the chief minister.
"We have decided to send a team to West Bengal next week which will probe not only this incident but all such incidents of crime against women which have recently occurred in West Bengal," NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma said.
Sharma called Banerjee "irresponsible" for her failure to send action taken reports sought by the NCW regarding several instances of gang rape in the state.
"We will seek an ATR from the CM in this matter as well. But what to expect from her, she has been so irresponsible that she has not bothered to send a single report that has been sought by us," Sharma said.
Unfortunately, the incident is not isolated. In 2010, a 15-year-old tribal girl was forced to parade naked through villages in her district for falling in love with a boy from another community.
The girl from Battala village was stripped and forced to walk naked through four villages with her pictures taken and circulated through MMS.
(Posted on 23-01-2014)