The chief minister of Assam has said that he accepts the blame and responsibility for a press statement sent out on Monday evening that shared the photo of a young woman who was molested on camera outside a pub in Guwahati a week ago. Tarun Gogoi said the photograph was a mistake, but that his office had not shared the name of the victim in the email sent to reporters.
Mr Gogoi also made another point - "You cannot go on rolling your camera and shooting for more than 20 minutes on the hapless victim for TRP without informing the police," he said, wading into one of the numerous grey areas that shroud the case. While the woman was being attacked, groped, pulled back from the road that she tried to race down, a TV camera and reporter kept recording. The news channel says this was the best it could do while confronting an unstoppable mob- record the attack so the police would have evidence.
Atanu Bhuyan, the editor-in-chief of NewsLive, the TV channel that recorded and broadcast the mob attack, resigned today. He said his channel acted correctly in filming the incident to help the police track down the guilty, and that his resignation was an attempt to help ensure a fair and independent inquiry. A reporter, Gaurav Jyoti Neog, who was at the pub when the attack began, quit on Saturday after local activist Akhil Gogoi accused him of instigating the mob. Mr Neog says those allegations are baseless. But the police have 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. (Read: Did no wrong, says editor of channel)
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. Nine days later, 11 of the 30 people who fell upon the woman 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 every day on national news channels. For the cameras, on that Monday night a week ago, he smiled as he went about his brutal act, trying to rip off the victim's shirt.
The exploitation of the victim continued far beyond that night. After his meeting with her last evening, the chief minister's office, in what many see as a grotesque attempt to convert a tragedy into a PR instalment, sent a press statement and photo of her to reporters, then caught itself and asked reporters to ensure her identity was not disclosed. 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 disclosure 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, saying the victim's identity was already in public domain. "I have done nothing wrong," she told a TV news channel.