The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A tonsured head for night’s stay

Nilgunje, in Barasat town, in North 24-Parganas, has remained tense ever since a woman’s head was tonsured allegedly by members of the Trinamul Congress-run gram panchayat on Thursday.

On Friday, some local CPM leaders joined forces with the Trinamul men and sat in judgment. The ‘jury’ declared her guilty of an illicit relationship with a former neighbour. The woman later lodged a complaint with the Barasat police to protest the treatment meted out to her.

Superintendent of police Basudeb Bag said during the day that the matter was being probed. “Even if the woman had developed an illicit relationship with somebody, no one has the right to tonsure her. We shall arrest the culprits irrespective of their political affiliation,” he said.

According to officials, Shanti Biswas, 40, a resident of Subhasnagar in Nilgunje, had been staying alone for the past two years since her husband left her. She earned her livelihood by doing odd jobs.

Last Thursday, Shambhu Das, 42, a local contractor who used to live next door to Shanti two years ago, called her to his residence at Debpukur in Nilgunje on some work.

As it started raining in the evening, he urged Shanti to stay back. Shambhu lives with his wife and son. His brother-in-law, Lalu, a next-door neighbour, asked Shanti to stay as well. However, on Friday morning, Lalu gathered some people and charged Shanti of having an illicit relationship with Shambhu. “She is trying to break my sister’s home,” he alleged.

“The mob beat her up and dragged her to her residence,” said Bishal Sarkar, organising secretary of the district Youth Congress. A meeting of the panchayat members was summoned, where some CPM activists also reportedly took part. Initially it was decided that her hair would be snipped. The punishment was altered when some were not satisfied with the “light sentence”. Sarkar later took Shanti to the police station and lodged an FIR.

“We also submitted a memorandum to the sub-divisional officer against the barbaric act,” Sarkar said. “We will organise a demonstration if the culprits are not nabbed.”

Several women’s organisations are also up in arms against the way in which the woman was treated by political heavyweights. “We shall take up the case with the Human Rights Commission,” said a local activist.

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