Deaf-mute victim of rape in police van gives birth
Kids in custody crossfire
Ballot backlash leaves 3 dead
ICSE city boss quits before results
Two killed in road mishaps
School to hone their survival strategies
Crime exhibits jam Lalbazar
Bail plea turned down in custody death case
Man, son held for forgery
Driver at the crossroads

Calcutta, May 16: 
She lies in one corner of the maternity ward at SSKM Hospital, staring silently up at the ceiling, a crumpled sheet covering her and the baby boy by her side.

Forgotten by the world and justice so far denied to her, the deaf-and-mute girl who was raped allegedly by policemen in a van on the way to Alipore court last year, gave birth to a boy on Wednesday, father unknown.

Even eight months after the crime — the child was born premature — and five months after the CID took over the case, the culprits have not been identified and the policemen charged with the rape continue to roam free.

“Is there no justice in this world?” asked a nurse tending to the girl. “As it is, she is having to suffer because of her physical disability, and now, she is saddled with misfortune as well. Will no one punish the guilty?”

The girl’s ordeal began in September last year when officials of Watgunge police station picked her up from her Mominpur home on charges of stealing valuables from a house where she used to do menial chores. She was later produced in Alipore court, where the judge remanded her to Presidency Jail.

According to a complaint lodged by the jail authorities, when she was being taken from Presidency Jail to be produced again in Alipore court a few days later, she was gangraped in the police van.

Despite the girl repeatedly indicating what had happened to her and the furore raised by her fellow-inmates, both the Alipore police and the detective department of the city police refused to pay any heed to the allegations, saying the two policemen accompanying the girl were innocent. The reason: A policewoman was accompanying them and she had given a clean chit to the two.

Besides, the police had added, other than the allegation by the girl, there was no evidence to indicate that she had been raped. Even the medical examination, which many said was “cursory”, did not establish rape. Thereafter, it was dismissed as a “consensual act” with someone else. It was then that the case was handed over to the CID.

Detectives say that now that the child is born, a DNA test will be conducted. “We will send the child’s blood samples to the forensic laboratory and match it with those of the accused policemen,” a police official said. The doctors have already indicated that the girl conceived around the same time that she alleged she had been raped. “The DNA test will reveal the truth,” the officials said.

For the present, it has been decided that the girl’s parents will bring up the child. “We are a poor family, which is why my daughter had to work in someone else’s house,” said her father. “We don’t know how we will do it, but there is hardly any choice for us. We cannot throw the child away.”

“Fortunately, the child is healthy,” said a nurse as she removed the boy from his mother’s side and put him back into the incubator. “Even though he is premature, the boy is doing quite well.”


Calcutta, May 16: 
The choice could not have been tougher for 10-year-old Debarghya. Seated in a Calcutta High Court judge’s chamber, flanked by his parents, Debashis and Debjani, he was asked only one question: Which of them would he choose to live with? The boy had no answer. He wanted them both.

For the past three months, every Wednesday, six-year-old Arpita is taken from her grandparents’ home in Howrah, where she has been staying since her mother died three years ago, to the high court. Once there, she is literally dragged up the stairs to the third floor to meet her father. When Arpita’s mother had committed suicide following a dispute with her husband, her parents decided to “adopt” their granddaughter and not allow her to stay with her father. After lengthy legal wranglings, the court held that Arpita’s father had the right to meet her every Wednesday in a judge’s chamber for an hour. “This is torture for my daughter,” her father finally said last week. “I’d rather not meet her than punish her like this.”

As marriages break up faster than ever before, so do the lives of children, hurtled from one uncertainty to the other. In the past few years, the number of cases for custody of children has been rising steadily, indeed alarmingly, in courts across the city .

“Every year, a growing number of children in this city are losing their childhood as their parents fight bitter battles for their custody,” said Justice Nur-e-Alam Choudhury of Calcutta High Court. “They are paying a terrible price for something they had no hand in. It is time that parents spared a thought for their children before deciding to separate.”

In the high court alone, 348 child custody cases are pending for final disposal. For many of these children, the wonder years have been lost shuttling between one courtroom and another, with their fate hanging in the balance.

Justice Bhagawati Prasad Banerjee has a “horror story” to narrate. While dealing with a custody case as a judge of the high court, he came across a child who had been “tutored” to believe that his father was “a monster”.

“Every day,” recalls Justice Banerjee, “the boy used to be shown a picture of his father from whom his mother had separated and taught to believe that this was the picture of a monster from whom he should run away. After some time, the boy actually started believing that this was what a monster looks like.The boy was traumatised when he finally met his father in court and was desperate to run away from him.”

What is worse, feels Justice Mukul Gopal Mukherjee, now serving as chairman of the state human rights commission, is when two or three-year-old children are summoned to court while their parents fight it out for their custody.

Recently, a judge at Alipore court asked a three-year-old boy, living with his grandparents after his mother committed suicide, to appear before him since his father had asked for his custody.

But there was a furore in court, with even lawyers saying that it was “terribly inhuman”. Finally, the child’s grandparents had to produce a certificate from his physician saying that the child was not fit to be produced in court before the judge relented.

“Unfortunately, some judges are not aware that children that small cannot be summoned to court,” said Justice Mukherjee. “And the sad thing is that unless the divorce rate is brought down, children will continue to suffer even as we look on helplessly.”


Calcutta, May 16: 
Post-poll violence claimed three lives on the northern fringes of the city. Eight persons were arrested in this connection.

Tension ran high at Rajarhat, about 25 km from the city centre, on Wednesday after the murder of Trinamul Congress block president Sheikh Daulat Ali, 52. All shops and markets were closed in the area. The Trinamul has called a 12-hour bandh in the area on Friday. The Rapid Action Force (RAF) has been has been deployed to help police keep a strict vigil.

Sub-divisional police officer of Barasat Kalyan Mukherjee said raids were continuing, and more arrests were likely to be made.

Daulat was attacked at Rajbati while he was cycling back home on Tuesday night. His assailants surrounded him, fired at him from point-blank range and then hacked him with sharp weapons. He died on the spot but his body was retrieved on Wednesday.

He is survived by his mother, wife, a son and two daughters.

Shambhu Ghosh, a Trinamul activist, said Daulat, a school teacher, “worked very hard” in the Assembly elections and was targeted by CPM cadre.

At Ghola, in Khardah, a 65-year-old CPM worker, Madhusudan Roy, was shot dead allegedly by Trinamul workers on Tuesday. Roy, also a school teacher, was returning home at Apurba Nagar when his assailants began to tail him. They fired at him from point-blank range at the turning of a road. Later, Dilip Roy, a Trinamul worker, was arrested.

Early on Wednesday, Shibu Mondal, 32, a Trinamul worker, was murdered very close to the spot where Madhusudan Roy had been attacked and killed.

Superintendent of police of North 24-Parganas, Kuldip Singh, said initially, it was believed to be a political murder. Subsequent inquiries, however, revealed that Shibu’s wife, Anima, had an affair with Shankar, a young man of the locality. Shankar had hired professional killers to eliminate Shibu. Later, Shankar and two of his accomplices were arrested.

Operation Misfire: Gangsters operating in east and south Calcutta and the fringe areas had met on Tuesday night in a house on G.G. Khan Road in Topsia, according to officers of the anti-rowdy section of the detective department. The sleuths said they were tipped off that gangsters Sona, Gabbar, Babban, Feroz, Altaf, Raju and Megha would meet in Topsia to decide on a course of action and settle disputes over territorial rights.

Police said each of the gangsters had several cases pending against him at the eight police stations in the city and the suburbs.

But the detectives reached the spot a bit too late. Moreover, informers had already warned the gangsters about the impending raid and they had fled long before the sleuths arrived with sirens blaring. A peeved deputy commissioner of detective department, Banibrata Basu, summoned the detectives and gave them a dressing-down for the operation that misfired.


Calcutta, May 16: 
For thousands of ICSE and ISC students, awaiting their results anxiously, the recently-set-up branch of the Delhi-based Council for Indian School Certificate Examination in Calcutta will be of no help if they run into any kind of trouble. Reason: Donald Alney, secretary of the Council’s city branch, has suddenly quit his post “in the middle of his term”. This leaves the examinees with no option but to rely directly on the Council’s head office in Delhi for any redressal of grievances or reply to queries, when the results are announced in the last week of May.

The city branch had been set in November 2000 to help thousands of ICSE and ISC students in Calcutta and the districts, in response to the “long-standing demand” that such a unit would ensure “better and easier coordination” between the Council, teachers and examinees. The sudden resignation of Donald Alney has caused concern among both officials and teachers in Council-affiliated schools of Calcutta. “The ICSE and ISC results will be announced very soon. The turn of events is unfortunate, as this is when the services of the Calcutta office are most required by the students. Now, the unmanned branch will be of no use to the students,” said Ismail Nehal, president, Association of Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools.

Alarmed at the development, F. Phantom, secretary and chief executive of the Council, is in Calcutta to conduct interviews for the post vacated by Alney. “We are trying to fill up the post as soon as possible,” said Phantom. “There is nothing unusual about Alney’s resignation, as he had been recruited on a temporary basis,” he added.

But Alney, former principal of La Martiniere for Boys, claimed his had been a permanent posting. He said he had chosen to quit the organisation as he was “no longer interested” in the job and was ready to “move on to other things”.

Council sources, however, said that differences over some fundamental issues between Fantom and Alney had led to the latter “resigning in a huff”. “The branch secretary told some confidants that he was finding it increasingly difficult to handle the affairs properly, under growing pressure from Delhi,” said an official.

But Alney’s decision to quit, with less than a fortnight to go for the results to be published, has drawn criticism from several quarters. “This was the time when the new branch could have played an effective role... Internal differences could have been sorted out after the results. The secretary should not have resigned at this critical juncture,” said the principal of an ICSE school in south Calcutta.


Calcutta, May 16: 
Reckless driving claimed two lives in the city on Wednesday.

Around 12.30 pm on Nirmal Chunder Street, Jahar Sau, 70, was knocked down by a private bus (WBR 2530) heading towards Shyambazar. Sau was a local grocer. The bus was impounded.

In the other accident, a private bus spun out of control and hit Raju Ali, 25, near the APC Road-Sahitya Parishad Street crossing. Eyewitnesses said Ali ran across the street, ignoring the traffic signal, and found himself in front of two buses. His body was sandwiched between the two vehicles. His lacerated body lay on Sahitya Parishad Street for about 45 minutes. The cops rushed in after 700 people blocked the road for more than an hour and refused to hand over the body.


Calcutta, May 16: 
“Everyone needs to know how to write their own name,” explains an earnest Shambhu Roy. The 16-year-old student has not only been studying at the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, he has also been passing on his skills to parents.

There is “no pity, no tears” for the children at the Taratala centre for those suffering from cerebral palsy, a disease that affects the motor system. The school, part of a research and training centre, concentrates on providing its 200-odd students with skills needed to “survive in the world”.

Part of this practical education programme is social work. “We want our children to have the same experience, as far as possible, as those going to a mainstream school would,” says principal Anita Varma. So they have been taking part in the Better Calcutta contest since its inception, with various projects from road improvement to education.

“Over 50 per cent of our kids come from under-privileged homes,” says Varma. According to school guidelines, parents are instructed to follow their child’s progress at school. “A few of them had problems, so they approached us themselves and asked if we could do something to help them,” recalls the principal. So a small team of kids got to work last year. “We taught them how to write their names and addresses,” grins 14-year-old Mainak Debnath. “It feels really good to help them out. At least it solves some of their problems,” he smiles.

The group of five parents will be doubled this year to include those interested in vocational training, such as sewing and handicrafts. “The children have begun their own training to get it just right,” says Varma. They also went to neighbouring schools and enacted skits on the importance of education. “We put up different plays in Bengali, Hindi and English,” 11-year-old Shushobhan says with a shy smile. During the last Durga Puja, they went to pandals and put up literacy posters, too.

They are now lobbying to have a zebra crossing in front of the school. Most of the children have problems with balance, and they have to cross Taratala Road, teeming with trucks travelling to the various factories in the area.

Last year, they convinced the authorities to repair the main road near Parnasree, which was in a “deplorable” state, and was a hazard for the children, while a few years before that, Taratala Road was repaired at their request. “The road was like waves in the ocean,” nods Shambhu. He and other Better Calcutta participants plan to speak to the Corporation about having conservancy trucks clearing up garbage in the area as well.

“This kind of work makes the kids feel good about themselves, just as anyone would,” smiles Varma, as the Better Calcutta sits at the computer to draft a letter to the mayor about the zebra crossing.


Calcutta, May 16: 
Daggers, country-made pistols, a hammer... Each item had once helped cops put a criminal behind bars. These instruments of crime, once invaluable, are now fast being rendered reduntant due to lack of space to store them.

The city police headquarters is clogged with crime exhibits that the police had produced in court at some point of time as evidence. The space crunch is so acute that the police have sought the court’s permission to destroy some of the old ones.

The cops have already drawn up a list and have identified exhibits which are not required in connection with on-going cases. Police sources said they have been forced to destroy some exhibits from time to time to make way for the new ones that are pouring in every day.

The police cannot destroy or dispose of a crime exhibit until they get a written permission to do so from the court.

Sources said some police stations in the city have asked their divisional deputy commissioners to arrange for the disposal of seized vehicles. Some of the vehicles are left parked in front of the police stations for months till the particular case is disposed of.

The detective department is the worst hit in this respect. Criminal exhibits are piling up in different sections of the department every day.

Odd exhibits, like furniture or a khil (door jamb), lie scattered on the verandahs and in the corridors, leaving scarcely any space for movement.

“We have already informed the court about our problem,” said deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

“Most of these exhibits are of no use now,” said a police official. “Even if an exhibit carries the criminal’s finger-print, these days we generally present the photograph of the finger-print in court. So, the exhibit itself becomes just a piece of junk, clogging our store room,” the official said, adding that valuable exhibits are generally auctioned after the verdict of the case is received.

“We are trying to create a central storage room for the detective department, where we intend to store all the crime exhibits,” Basu said, adding that plans have been chalked up to create a storage room for the important exhibits.


Calcutta, May 16: 
A division bench of Calcutta High Court, comprising Justice Basudev Panigrahi and Justice Moloy Basu, on Wednesday rejected the bail prayer of Ashok Roy, officer-in-charge of Burrabazar police station in Purulia, in a custodial death case.

Budhan Sabar, member of the Kheria community in Purulia, was arrested on February 10, 1999, on a charge of robbery. He died in police custody on February 17, 1999. The police claimed Budhan had committed suicide in jail. The Paschim Banga Kheria Sabar Kalyan Samity, an organisation to promote the Kheria community, then wrote a letter to the Chief Justice, seeking a probe into Budhan’s death.

The then judge of Calcutta High Court Ruma Pal had directed the CBI to probe the custodial death. The CBI, in its report to the court, said that Budhan was brutally tortured by the police during his custody and his death was caused by the police torture.

As per the court’s directive, the police arrested Ashok Roy, officer-in-charge of the Burrabazar police station. This custodial death had generated much controversy among the under-developed community in the state.


Calcutta, May 16: 
A man and his son were arrested on Saturday evening on charges of cheating. Police said the duo had withdrawn a hefty amount from a bank account of their relative by forging her signature.

Police said Abdul Gaffar and son Zulfikar Ali were arrested on a complaint lodged by their relatives. The duo confessed their crime to the police after signature experts confirmed forgery.

The cheating wing of the detective department has started a probe to find out the exact amount the duo had withdrawn. The sleuths are also trying to find out whether they had cheated others or not.

Police said Ayesha Khatoon, Gaffar’s sister, held an account with Bank of India’s Elliot Road branch.

After she died a year ago, Gaffar and his son started withdrawing money from her account.

The family were not aware that Ayesha held a bank account. After stumbling upon her pass book, they contacted the bank’s branch manager, but were told that the entire amount had been withdrawn. Then the family went to the police.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, detective department, said the family suspected Gaffar and his son.

“Acting on this tip-off, we started our investigation,” Basu added.

Police were told by the duo that the plan was chalked out by Gaffar and his son forged Ayesha’s signature.

“We had handwriting experts examine the signatures on the cheques used for withdrawing the amount from the bank. Then we asked the duo to sign on a blank sheet of paper. The experts confirmed that the writing was the same,” added the detective chief.


Calcutta, May 16: 
Hope of delayed justice is fading fast for Tyrone D’ Silva. The 40-year-old driver who took Singapore Airlines to court in 1994 and had to wait six-and-a-half years for the hearing to start, is now “in despair”. For the case threatens to drag on indefinitely.

D’ Silva worked as a driver in Dum Dum airport, carrying SA officials and cargo to the flights for two years.

Since he operated in the apron area, he was issued entry permits by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security as an authorised driver of the airline. But when he demanded a salary and other privileges commensurate with his rank, the airline dubbed him a ‘personal employee’ of the then airport manager, and barred him from duty.

D’Silva has been doing the rounds of the city civil court ever since. It took 82 dates for the issues to be filed and the hearing to begin.

“On July 18, 2000, I, the first witness, was called to the box and the first exhibit, my entry permit, was produced. But on the very next date, December 4, the airline filed an application challenging the city civil court’s authority to adjudge the litigation, in utter mockery of years of court proceedings,” he says. “Had they allowed the hearing to continue, they would have had to cross-examine me, for which they would have had to challenge the validity of my permit. That would have implicated them for providing false information to the BCAS (The permits, all 27 of them, show D’Silva’s designation as an “SA driver”).”

He expects this plea to be dismissed by the court when the case comes up for hearing on Thursday, but that will hardly help his cause. “They will possibly take this litigation to the higher courts, stalling the main case till the plea is resolved.”

Caught at the crossroads of legal paraphernalia, D’Silva today is a broken man. “I am a poor man with two daughters. I have sold off all my valuables, including my wedding ring, to fight this case. How many years more will I have to wait for justice?”


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