The arrests are slowly adding up -too slowly to matter, really. A week after a TV camera in Guwahati filmed a young woman being attacked, groped, pulled back from the road that she tried to race down, 11 of the 30 people who assaulted her have been arrested.
The man who led the mob - seen in a red shirt, the same he wears in his Facebook profile photo where he announces himself as James Bond - remains on the loose. His photograph runs everyday on national news channels. For the cameras, on that Monday night a week ago, he smiled; a loathsome attempt at being some sort of reality TV star.
The victim has injuries. There are cigarette burns on her limbs. The mental scars, the National Commission of Women says, are equally evident. And yet, this young woman, who visited a pub in her hometown with a group of friends, has been groped and assaulted in different ways by so many more than the 30 men who fell upon her, egging each other on with jubilant cries.
The Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, met her last evening. Minutes later, in what many see as a manipulative and grotesque attempt to convert a tragedy into a PR instalment, his office sent a press statement and photo of her to reporters, then caught itself and asked reporters to ensure her identity was not disclosed. The new bout of public anger at this abusive lapse from the head of the government provoked a weak defence today. His office said it had not used her real name in the statement it mailed out. But details of what the victim wanted - her concern about living in a neighbourhood where she could be easily tracked down by those assaulters who have not been caught, her request for funds to set up a beauty salon that was agreed to by the chief minister - all this was hung out to dry. The statement said Mr Gogoi had promised her Rs 50,000 from the chief minister's relief fund. The exploitation of what should have been a private conversation remains unexplained.
Hours before the chief minister's office sent out its look-what-we-did message, Alka Lamba was removed by the National Commission for Women (NCW) for revealing the victim's name at a press conference during the weekend. Ms Lamba defended her actions on Monday afternoon, stating Alka Lamba defended herself, saying the victim's identity was already in public domain. "I have done nothing wrong," she told a TV news channel.
Another party leapt to its own defense today. Atanu Bhuyan, the editor-in-chief of the TV channel that recorded and broadcast the mob attack, resigned today. He said his channel acted correctly, in filming the incident as evidence to help the police track down the guilty, and that his resignation was an attempt to help ensure a fair and independent inquiry. The role of News Live is shrouded shades of grey. A reporter, Gaurav Jyoti Neog, who was at the pub when the attack began, has quit after local activist Akhil Gogoi accused him of instigating the mob. Mr Neog says those allegations are baseless. But the police has told the Ministry of Home Affairs that it will interrogate Mr Neog, who appears to be a close friend of the main accused, Mr Kalita.
Mr Neog says that he summoned help by phoning his office for a camera and reporter when he realized the mob was out of control. The incident was then filmed by a News Live employee named Dipya Bordoloi who has told NDTV he was disgusted that he couldn't do more to help the victim. News Live officials have said repeatedly that were it not for their footage, no arrests would have been made. It took 48 hours to find the first of 12 men clearly identifiable in the video.
Jayanta Narayan Chowdhury, The Director General of Assam Police, , said when asked about the delay that Police is not like an "ATM machine" which can be present at the crime scene the moment one inserts a card in the machine, provoking a public reprimand from Home Minister P Chidambaram.
On July 16, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Guwahati, Apurba Jeevan Barua was transferred. He downplayed the teenager's ordeal as "stray incident" and accused the Delhi media of blowing the matter out of proportion.
Story first published:
July 17, 2012 14:48 IST