The incident is captured in heartrending detail on a video that went viral on the Internet. For 30 minutes on Monday night the mob snatched at, kicked, pulled, beat and stripped the Class XI student. It took the police that half an hour to turn up and take her to her parents. In the three days since the incident, only four of her assailants have been arrested. (Post Your Comments Here)
In Assam, the rate of crime against women is a shocking 36.9 per lakh, almost double the national average at 18.9. The young girl's sickening molestation on Monday could well have been another number added to that statistic had it not been for the video shot by the night reporter of a local TV channel, Newslive, which was uploaded on YouTube and went viral. The arrests were made on Thursday, after that happened. The warning on the hoarding rings true
The faces of many of the assailants are clearly seen on camera. On the video, as the mob of around 50 men chase, beat and strip the girl, it is clear no one nearby attempted to help her. Close-ups of the attackers' faces show no remorse, many wear a look of satisfaction. Some even smile as they look directly into the camera, almost performing for it. At one point, some of the attackers attempt to force the girl to look at the camera, chanting sinisterly.
The four men arrested are among only 11 people the police has identified so far. The main accused, they say, is Amar Jyoti Kalita, who used to work at a company called Amtron and has since been suspended. On the video, the part-time actor is seen in a bright red T shirt. He is yet to be arrested. The four men who have been arrested are, Dhanraj Basfar, a sweeper, Puspendu Das, a shopkeeper, Md Habijuddin, and BikashTiwari, who is just 18 years old. Apart from Kalita, those identified but not arrested are Rubul Ali, Debo Das, a man with the surname Baruah, Dipak Dey an auto driver, Tinku Deb and Bablu.
Assam's police chief Jayanta Choudhary says it will take them some time to track the rest. "There are 12 people that we want of which we have identified 11 and of these 11, we have got four. The others, we have got the names and hopefully, we will get them in the next few days. The whole idea is not just to arrest but to chargesheet them so that with this kind of evidence conviction then is almost certain. When you make random arrests of a large number of people, then the chances of a case falling through are much more. They are evading arrest...they are not in their home. So, we will have to find them, track them down and we will get them in a couple of days," he said.
The girl's mother filed a written complaint and the four men arrested have been booked under Section 341 (wrongful restraint), Section 143 (unlawful assembly), Section 294 (obscene act), Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), Section 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Mr Choudhary said the victim, along with another girl and three boys had gone to the city pub when they got into an altercation and were asked to leave. The fight, now physical, continued outside the pub near an auto-rickshaw stand, he said, and some bystanders tried to separate them but later the situation "got out of control", the police chief said, adding, "there are always some low-lives hanging around and when they see a girl, they always try to take advantage of the situation. Now, it's not like they were predators waiting to pounce on any woman that came in. Initially, they tried to separate the boy and the girl who were fighting but later it went out of control."
The police, he said, first got a call from a hotel nearby at about 10 O' clock.
The Editor of Newslive, the channel that shot the video, says his night reporter chanced upon the incident and began recording on his mobile phone camera for a while even as he called his news desk for a camera team. Angry questions now being asked all over the country include - why didn't those shooting the video help the girl instead? The reporter has claimed that he tried to help, but when the mob grew bigger, he stepped back and began recording instead.
The Editor, Zarir Hussain, squarely blames the police and says, "It is no less than gang rape...there were many people on the road. No one tried to intervene." Cops, he said, had asked to view portions of the tape, but had not asked to speak to the reporter who witnessed and shot the incident, he said.
There is outrage over the police's apparent inaction. Political leaders across parties have slammed the authorities and have demanded strong punishment for the attackers. The BJP's Sushma Swaraj tweeted yesterday, "We will not let this go unpunished" and said Bijoya Chakravarty, the party MP from Guwahati, had met the Director General of Police on Thursday evening.
The Congress' Renuka Choudhary also slammed the incident. "It's ridiculous for us citizens to sit back and say there have to be police who have to look after this. What has happened to our society...what about their parents...are their parents going to be put under pressure to call these men and talk to them about this? They have to be counselled and some good, old-fashioned punishment really works. Look at their defiance. They looking into the camera and actually thinking that they are heroes. They actually believe that, 'yes, it's ok...I have got my two minutes of fame.' There is a social fracture that is happening. There seems to be an acceptance for this kind of behaviour. There friends are not going to boycott them and people will not stop inviting them to their homes or to functions and they will almost swagger as if there is something heroic that they have done," she said.
Terming it a "shameful act", National Commission for Women Chairperson Mamta Sharma demanded life term for the culprits and alleged that the police was "shying away from responsibility."
NDTV.com users are furious. "They are animals and do not deserve to live in society. They should be given the harshest of punishment so that no other man will ever think of mistreating women," said a surfer, Sonika Lama. "Until we don't stop being a mere spectator to these kinds of atrocious and outrageous acts and start teaching such people lessons, it could be me or you any day and others will be watching," added Ramya.
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