KOLKATA, Feb 19 (IANS): The efforts of the West Bengal administration, led by the state`s first woman Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, to play down an Anglo-Indian woman`s complaint of being “raped at gun point” after late night partying on fashionable Park Street have raised the hackles of rights bodies and eminent people.
After a series of twists and turns, police claimed to have cracked the case by arresting three youths Saturday, throwing egg on the face of top government functionaries who had doubted the veracity of the woman`s complaint.
A manhunt has also been launched for the prime suspect, who is said to have fled the state.
The incident has raised serious questions on law and order, as it is the latest in a chain of murders as well as shootings and snatchings – many of them in broad daylight – in Kolkata and adjacent areas. There has even been several incidents of packets containing body parts being unearthed.
The alleged rape victim, who is a mother of two and a call centre employee, claimed that while coming out of a posh night club in the wee hours of Feb 6 she was offered a lift by an acquaintance in car.
As the car was about to start, some more people entered it, and she was later raped inside the moving vehicle and then thrown out into the streets.
However, the woman`s claim that the acquaintance was one Lavi Gidwani created confusion as immigration records showed he was in Canada from Jan 2. Later, the woman told a television channel that the man had first introduced himself as Rahman Khan and then gave his name as Lavi Gidwani.
Besides, police mobile call records of two other alleged culprits – Sharafat Ali and Azhar Ali – showed they were far from the spot at the time of occurrence of the alleged crime.
Deputy Commissioner of City Police (Crime) Damayanti Sen Thursday said the “victim” seemed “confused” and “certain technical discrepancies” had to be sorted out before police could come to a conclusion.
Police finally took the erased video footage of the night club on the day of the alleged incident to a cyber lab and nailed the alleged culprits, who were the not the ones originally identified by the woman. It was found that the arrested trio were Ruman Khan, Sumit Bajaj and Nasir.
“One person in the presence of others raped the woman. All of them used fake names while introducing themselves to the woman. So she got confused. The people whose names they took and who were mentioned by the victim initially were not present at the time of the crime,” said Sen.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had claimed Thursday that the incident was “cooked up” to “malign the government”.
Trinamool Congress leader and Sports Minister Madan Mitra went further. While talking to a TV channel, he not only did he question the morality of the woman but went on to say that the complaint was fabricated to extort money.
“She has two children and so far as I know she is separated from her husband. What was she doing at a night club so late in the night?” he asked.
At the state secretariat, a government spokesman even asked whether she was involved with an escort service and referred to an old case of cheating against her father.
What was also shocking is that some police officers had mocked the woman when she went to file her complaint at the Park Street police station. An inquiry has been ordered into the alleged indecent behaviour of the policemen.
West Bengal Women`s Commission chairperson Sunanda Mukherjee, who was handpicked for the post by the chief minister, took exception to the comments made by government functionaries.
“If any woman claims she has been raped then the rule is it has to be looked into with utmost seriousness. None of us have the right to say the allegation is right or wrong when investigation is on,” she said.
Writer Suchitra Bhattacharya said: “No woman will falsely claim that she has been raped. And the character of a woman should not be dragged into the issue. There is a Supreme Court ruling on this.”