The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Migrant rape charge on border troops

Calcutta, March 7: The North 24-Parganas police today decided to chargesheet BSF assistant commandant Punit Kumar and four jawans of 122 Battalion stationed at the Soladanga camp for allegedly raping a Bangladeshi woman and “trying to influence investigation”.

South Bengal inspector-general of police N.R. Das said the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Basirhat had issued an arrest warrant against them on Wednesday.

“We have sent officers from the Basirhat police station to serve the warrant to the commanding officer of the BSF unit there, directing him to order Kumar and the jawans to surrender before court,” Das said, adding that the police have collected conclusive evidence of their guilt.

“We will produce the documents, which include clinching statements of a witness, in court at an appropriate time,” he said.

Presidency Range deputy inspector-general Vijay Kumar went to Soladanga yesterday to review the case and give the final touches to the chargesheet.

Investigations by the Murshidabad police have shown that the BSF men picked up the victim with her husband, Basudev Das, and two minor children on January 9 from Basirhat for illegally crossing over from Bangladesh. There were four others, including a 50-year-old woman, in the group of migrants.

“The group was taken to the Soladanga camp. On the pretext of searching them for smuggled goods, the BSF men asked the women to strip. The older woman was allowed to go, but they raped the other woman,” Das said.

Investigators have found that the BSF summoned a boatman, Karim Dhali, the next morning and directed him to take the group across the Ichhamati river to Bangladesh. “The boat capsized midstream. While the victim survived along with one of her children, Basudev and their elder son were drowned,” Das said.

“Police began to question the woman and it was then that she complained that she was raped in the BSF camp and put in the boat to be taken to the Bangladeshi side of the river,” Das quoted from the investigation report.

The victim has identified her tormentors, the room where she was allegedly raped and given a detailed description of what she went through that night in the Soladanga camp.

“She was sent for medical examination, which confirmed that the woman was sexually abused,” a police officer said. Dhali and a local, Krishnapada Ghosh, told the police that BSF personnel were intimidating them for testifying against their men.

BSF inspector-general, south Bengal frontier, Rajinder Singh wasn’t convinced. “Local smugglers are behind the conspiracy. Kumar had clamped down on illegal activities in Basirhat and I fear the smugglers have ganged up to take revenge,’’ he said.

Asked whether Kumar would surrender in court, Singh said “it requires a sanction from (the) BSF headquarters to prosecute an officer”.

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