Guwahati: On Friday the 13th, India confronted a real-life nightmare which assaulted the country's senses. A young woman was molested by nearly 50 men swaggering for a TV camera; equally chilling are the dozens of people who stood by cheering with rapacious frenzy while indifferent drivers refused to stop as she begged for help. (Top 10 developments)
The footage of the crime was first aired on Monday night by Newslive, a local Guwahati channel, barely minutes after a reporter and cameraperson shot a mob of around 50 people pushing a young girl hitting her, stripping her. The footage was edited - so it showed just the policemen arriving to rescue the girl, about 20 minutes after she was attacked. (Post Your Comments Here)
On Tuesday, the clip showing what happened before the police arrived on the scene of the crime was uploaded on YouTube, and it went viral. It was only on Wednesday evening that the first arrest was made. Two more were arrested on Thursday. By this morning, over 76 hours after the atrocity, another person had been arrested. The man who, according to the police, was the worst offender, instigating the mob, is seen smiling as he assaults the girl. His red t-shirt is the same that he wears in his display picture on Facebook, where he refers to himself as Bond. This is Amar Jyoti Kalita, who has been suspended since the footage aired by his company, Assam Electronics Development Corporation Ltd. (AMTRON). (Read: Main accused aka Bond on Facebook, still missing)
The chronology of what happened that night is still being pieced together. The police says the victim and two girls with her were in a bar on a busy Guwahati road with two men. A fight broke out. As they emerged from the pub, the victim was in a physical fight with one of the men. People at a rickshaw stand nearby tried to separate the pair, but soon the crowd turned on the girl. As they attacked her, she tried to sprint away, knocked on car windows for help. Nobody stopped. Nobody intervened. The mob is seen jeering as it drags her back, groping her. Amar Jyoti Kalita rips off her shirt. (Timeline of the case)
The police says it has identified 11 of the 12 people that are caught on camera. Though the Director General of Police (DGP) said more arrests "will take a couple of days," he refuted allegations that the police had failed miserably. After all, these men are caught on camera, their faces clearly visible. How tough can it be to find them and arrest them? Assam DGP Jayanta Narayan Chowdhury says many of them are not at home. He wants to build a solid case against them, he says, so they are not arrested and then released within hours. The plan, he said, is to chargesheet them. (Read: Cops blamed for inaction)
The police inaction has been nearly overshadowed by a parallel controversy about the reporter's role. Dipya Bordoloi says he was summoned to the site where the mob had gathered by a colleague. Their news studio is just a few minutes away. He tried at first to intervene. When he realised the mob was impossible to fight, he decided the next best thing he could do to help was to film the attackers for evidence that could later be used by the police. Mr Bordoloi says he was disgusted that could not do more. His news editor, Syed Zarir Hussain, said that if the footage did not exist, it's doubtful that any arrests would have been made. (Watch: It was like a gang-rape, says reporter who saw Guwahati molestation | Read)
But there are concerns about whether the camera further incited the molesters, who decided to amp up their attack for camera. There are also allegations that the unedited footage of the incident, which revealed the girl's identity, was uploaded on YouTube and was later removed. The channel denies this. But on camera, a voice (not of the reporter), can be heard asking the girl to state her name and turn towards the camera.
On Friday night, chief minister Tarun Gogoi held a press conference - the first comment by the state government on the incident - and said the law and order in Guwahati needs to improve. Not the sort of leadership or crisis management that a country is demanding.
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