Calcutta, Feb. 26: The West Bengal Women’s Commission today said it had gathered “substantial evidence” to suggest that six women, including four minor girls, were raped or molested when two luxury buses were looted on February 6.
The commission also accused Nadia police of trying to hush up the incident, which happened in Ainsmali village in the Dhantola police station area when the passengers, including 24 women, were returning from a wedding.
The police have so far arrested 17 people, including CPM zonal committee member Subol Bagchi, who teaches in a local school. Most of the looted valuables have been recovered from the house of Saidul Karigul, a former panchayat pradhan of the area. He has been arrested.
The incident happened on the midnight of February 6 when a gang of 20 attacked two packed luxury buses returning from a wedding. They forced the men on to the roofs of the buses, killed one of the drivers and raped or molested some women and minor girls before fleeing with the valuables.
Women commission chairperson Yasodhara Bagchi alleged that the evidence gathered during an inquiry pointed to a nexus between the accused and the local police. She has demanded “exemplary punishment for the guilty policemen”.
Asked why the rape victims had not complained to the police immediately after the incident, she said: “The victims have said before our members conducting the inquiry that they feared social ostracism. Moreover, some of the victims told us that they had seen some of the rapists mingling with some of the local policemen.”
After an independent inquiry, including lengthy interviews with 10 of the victims, the commission today demanded that the arrested persons be additionally charged with rape and molestation.
Bagchi and other key commission members, including former CPM legislator Malini Bhattacharya, also demanded that the government take immediate steps to punish the culprits and arrange for medical tests of the rape victims.
“We don’t rule out molestation of more women. They are feeling extremely scared to reveal what actually happened that night,” Bagchi said. The commission members urged the government to keep the victims’ identity “strictly confidential”.
Bagchi claimed that the police tried to suppress information when the commission members visited the area on February 16 and 23.
“The officer-in-charge of Dhantola police station, Subhas Roy, told us repeatedly that he had not received any complaint of rape and molestation from the victims, despite the fact that the helper of a bus, Dilip Ghosh, had specified that the women were raped,’’ she said.
Bagchi said the officers even denied that the victims were dragged out of the buses and severely assaulted.
“We had taken 161 statements from bus passengers and they were all identical,” she claimed.
A three-member team from the National Commission of Women summoned state home secretary Amit Kiran Deb and director general of police D. C. Vajpai to Great Eastern Hotel this morning for a briefing.
The three members --- Sudha Malaiya, Nafissa Hussein and former Delhi police commissioner T. R. Kakkar --- will leave for the village tomorrow for an “on-the-spot inquiry’’. Retired judge Kalyanmoy Ganguly will accompany them.
Later speaking to The Telegraph, deputy inspector general of police, CID, Raj Kanojia said police had started a case under the Indian Penal Code last Saturday.
“We had sent a team from our women’s cell to speak to the victims. They lodged a complaint of rape and molestation on Friday and we started a case on that day,’’ he said.