West Bengal gang-rape, allegedly ordered by village council, stuns Supreme Court

Kolkata: The Supreme Court today staged an intervention in the horrific case of a young woman in Bengal who was allegedly gang-raped on the orders of a village council.

The court called the case "disturbing", and asked the district judge in Birbhum, the area where the sexual assault took place on Monday, to visit the village where the woman lives and file a report on the facts within a week.

The 20-year-old woman in Birbhum, 180 km from the state capital of Kolkata was gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of village elders as punishment for having a relationship with a man from a different community, police officers have said.

The horrific incident has made headlines across the world - from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and on CNN, BBC and PBS.

"We need to hand our heads in shame. It is shocking that such incidents are happening in the state we are residing," said Somnath Chatterjee, former Lok Sabha Speaker.

In Birbhum, tribals marched to protest the alleged gang-rape and said what had happened was never tribal practice, but an ugly distortion of tribal law.

"We are protesting against the incident that happened. No one can order such a punishment in a community. Media is showing as if it is a custom of the community," said Prabin Soren, one of the protesters.

In Subalpur village, women residents are still in denial and male residents are absconding. But what is emerging is that at the Kangaroo court, a Trinamool panchayat member was present.

"Ajoy Mondal, a member of the TMC panchayat, was a friend of the accused man entangled with the tribal girl. When the villagers rounded up the couple, Ajoy Mondal arrived there and offered money to let them go and called the salishi sabha (kangaroo court) and that made the whole mess. They cannot avoid responsibility," said Kunal Deb, a social worker.

"What is happening in West Bengal is a naked display of political patronage to the criminal, which is affecting the women's security. If a leader speaks in a language that encourages criminals, this is what workers are going to do," said CPM's Brinda Karat.

The Trinamool has denied any links with the incident.

The role of the police is also under fire. The Birbhum police today got custody of these 13 men; its failure to do so yesterday had resulted in chief minister Mamata Banerjee removing the district's police chief. Many are also asking why didn't the police get information and act while the kangaroo court, which went on for 10 to 12 hours at least, was taking place. 
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