On Orders, Police Practically Played Goons: CPI(M)
By Debasish Chakraborty
IT was a murder most foul. It was a protest most heart rending.
Kolkata erupted in protest on the first day of the New Year after a girl, twice gangraped and then burnt to death, breathed her last in a city hospital. The episode, as if taken from a horror film, exposed the cruelty of a regime that is ruling West Bengal now.
The girl, daughter of a taxi driver, came with her parents from Samastipur, Bihar, to Kolkata with the hope that her life would change for the better. But that was not to be. She was only 16 years old. She was first gangraped on October 25 in Madhyamgram, a crowded northern suburb of Kolkata in North 24 Parganas district. As she and her parents were coming back after lodging the complaint with the police, she was kidnapped along the way and tortured again by the same gang of anti-socials. It was horrible enough under normal circumstances, but Ms Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal has ceased to be a normal state. The perpetrators were goons sheltered by the ruling Trinamul Congress (TMC) and they repeatedly threatened, harassed and humiliated her family. Under pressure from the local people and the women’s organisations in particular, the police was forced to arrest six of the culprits.
The threat of dire consequences, however, continued through the ruling party’s local activists. The poor taxi driver had to leave the place and hire a home in the airport locality. But the friends of the culprits, through the TMC network, got the address of the new shelter and harassment again started. The family was pressurised to withdraw the case. Or, as has been proved by now, the planning was to annihilate the main witness of the crime --- the girl herself.
On December 23, a group of hooligans raided the house when both of her parents were outside. An altercation followed. Soon after, fire was seen from the house and her neighbours rushed in. Meanwhile, her mother also rushed back. The girl was heard shouting, “Mother, they will not allow us to live. You come along with me; Oh, my mother!”
The girl was admitted to R G Kar Hospital with more than 70 percent burn injuries. Earlier, it was told that she had tried to commit suicide in the face of continuous harassment. But finally it was learnt that she was put on fire by the goons. On December 31, 2013, she lost the battle and died.
This was thus a clear case of murder ---premeditated, most foul, in cold blood.
The girl, in her dying statement, told the police that the same men who had allegedly raped her, had set her ablaze. This was admitted by the police after three days --- in the face of a strong public opinion and steadfastness of the girl’s father.
"In her dying declaration before Dr Sudipta Singh and investigating officer Saidullah Sana at the R G Kar hospital, she said two persons, who were co-accused in the rape case, set her on fire," said additional deputy commissioner (airport division), Nimbala Santosh Uttamrao, on the day of the funeral. He said the police have now added the murder charge to the case.
The girl’s father also said the accused tried to burn her alive because she had complained against them. He was upset, however, because “the police sat over her dying statement and did not book the accused for murder.” Her father said she was set afire on December 23 at the rented house in the airport area where the family was forced to shift from Madhyamgram after threats by the accused.
It is alleged that even in the state run R G Kar hospital, the girl was not treated in any proper manner. Continuous request to refer her to SSKM Hospital, having a modern burn unit, was refused. It seemed that some forces from the high up were working behind the scene.
The ordeal did not end with the death either. After spontaneous protests around the hospital and road blockades, the girl’s body was taken to her house. It was announced that the body would be kept in a mortuary and a funeral rally will take place on January 1. The Taximen’s Union, affiliated to the CITU, had called the rally and decided that it would march towards Raj Bhavan, the governor’s house. But the police perpetrated a nasty, uncivilised attack when the body was on its way to mortuary. Police jeeps cordoned the hearse and forcefully took the body to the crematorium. However, this unlawful act proved futile as the parents of the girl refused to accompany the police and refused to hand over the death certificate. The body was kept for eight hours in the crematorium, cordoned by the police, and the whole state witnessed through news channels the inhuman behaviour of the state administration on the eve of the New Year.
Meanwhile, another gruesome episode unfolded in the girl’s house. District police officials, including the police superintendent, raided the house. They threatened the girl’s father with dire consequences if they did not hand over the death certificate. Local TMC hooligans accompanied the police and gheraoed the house. "The police officials threatened me and asked me to leave the state and return to Bihar with the body. The police officials and some local toughs also threatened that if I did not, they would stop me from driving my taxi," said the victim's father to the media. He even reported that the police officers threatened to kill him by firing. The parents reported their ordeal to the governor, M K Narayanan, on January 1.
But all these terror tactics failed because of resolute determination of a working class family who refused to let her daughter get a grotesque farewell. The police was forced to bring the body back to the house. The police then accompanied the parents to the crematorium again, in the early hours of the morning, with the intention that everything should be ‘hushed up’ before the people become alert. But again, their design was foiled by the girl’s father. He insisted that the body would have to be taken to the CITU office first. The news spread and people began to gather in front of the crematorium. CITU leaders, including Shyamal Chakraborty and Dipak Dasgupta, and AIDWA leaders also rushed there and after a brief clash with the police the body was taken to the CITU state office.
The body was kept there and thousands gathered to pay their respect --- in fact their last love to a sister who suffered a brutal death. Workers, students, youths, women, intellectuals assembled and patiently waited. Finally, the rally started with small congested steps from the West Bengal state office of the CITU at around 4 p m and then every confident footsteps of this huge procession made her reborn every single moment they marched. The procession ended at the Esplanade. Then she was taken to the crematorium, with her parents and near and dear ones accompanying her through this span of the journey. But the stretch from the CITU office to the Esplanade made many feel so deeply like her parents, brothers and sisters that they refused to leave her half the way. They are all determined to make her win in this battle of justice and dignity now. The rally was silent, but the anger reverberated in the sky of the New Year.
The leader of the opposition in the assembly, Suryakanta Mishra, while participating in the rally, said, "Soon after Tuesday night’s incident when police held up the body and tormented the victim’s family, I had a word with the home secretary. I told him that instead of standing beside the victim’s family, the police are practically playing the role of goons," Mishra said.
"We believe that without orders from the top the police could not have acted the way they did. The police are even trying to downplay the incident, as is evident from the fact that they registered the second rape complaint as molestation. What is striking is the silence of the chief minister on the issue. She only gave her wishes for the New Year but conveniently sidestepped the brutal incident," Mishra added.
"The victim did not receive proper treatment in hospital. The health department should be held accountable for the death. The goons wanted to burn her alive and the police wanted to cremate her body despite objections from the family. Such activities are only encouraging the criminals," said CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu.