Calcutta, Sept. 19: A woman was beaten up, tonsured and had her face smeared with mud and cow-dung by her neighbours — all of them women — for allegedly pushing her daughter-in-law to suicide in a middle-class suburb of Howrah.
Some other residents of the neighbourhood, Dinshahipara in north Howrah’s Bally, watched with amusement for over 10 minutes before intervening as 55-year-old Shibani De was dragged out of her home, beaten up with brooms and then partially tonsured.
Shibani’s son Diganta De was arrested on Wednesday and booked under Sections 304 and 498A of the Indian Penal Code after his 28-year-old wife, Gopa, hanged herself in the afternoon. Gopa killed herself after an angry exchange of words with Shibani who fled her home soon after the suicide, Howrah superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar said.
Shibani, however, returned home on Thursday morning, by when most of the neighbourhood had turned against her.
Soon after she was spotted inside her home, word spread that she had “arrived and should be taught a lesson for taking the life of a young wife still happy with life”.
Over two dozen neighbours pounced on Shibani’s residence, brought her out and proceeded to mete out a punishment which, they felt, was commensurate with her “crime”.
After beating her up with brooms and then shaving the larger part of her head, they proceeded to smear her face with mud and cow-dung as other neighbours “watched the fun”, the police said.
Shibani, after a few minutes, managed to free herself from the clutches of her captors but was chased — with cries of “shame, shame” — when her brother, Deepak, tried to rescue her. Deepak then became the target and was thrashed.
The crowd then came to life and saved Shibani and Deepak. Officials from the Bally police station arrived in a few minutes and took Shibani and Deepak into custody.
Some neighbours told investigators that the immediate cause of the suicide was “probably a dressing-down she received from Shibani for wanting to visit her parents’ house with Puja gifts”, additional superintendent of police (town) Rajeev Mishra said.
The police have initiated a case against some of Shibani’s neighbours.