The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Young women harassed at home and outside

Calcutta, April 21: The 25-year-old who was molested at a crowded railway station on Monday on her way back from work today gave up her job, saying she did not feel safe outside her home in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Bengal. But a 22-year-old has found she is not safe even at home.

Four men had been tormenting the housewife in Barasat, 40 km from here, for a week. On Sunday, they barged into her house and molested her in front of her four-year-old daughter.

The victim (name withheld) and her 20-year-old sister-in-law went to police, but no action was taken. The family today approached sub-divisional police officer Kanad Mukherjee who has asked Barasat police to act.

Bhayankar ghatana (horrifying incident)… there is no denying it,” the chief minister said at Writers’ Buildings, referring to Monday’s incident at Hridaypur. “I have asked the director-general of police to initiate action. Sab kotake tene bar korbo, sabaike arrest kara hobe (All the culprits will be tracked down and arrested).”

He might have more to say about the Barasat incident. The men who stalked the 22-year-old every day and assaulted her in her house are activists of the DYFI, the youth wing of the CPM.

The local DYFI leadership admitted that Ramen Dhali, Debu Kundu, Ratan Sarkar and Surjo Das — named by the victim — are party workers. “Yes, they do belong to our local unit in Barasat, but I will have to find out what crime they have actually committed,” Pulak Kar, the DYFI (North 24-Parganas) district secretary, said.

Police said the woman used to find it difficult to walk down the narrow lanes of Chaitanyanagar, where the family had moved recently, because the youths passed lewd comments.

On Saturday, the woman’s husband went to the local DYFI office and told the gang of four — all in their late twenties — to stay away from her. “Please stop bothering her or I will have to go to the police,” he said.

The next day, at 9 pm, the youths landed at the house and called for the husband knowing he was not there. When the wife came out, they grabbed her and pushed her back inside.

Hearing her cries, her sister-in-law rushed to help but was slashed by a pocket-knife on her right elbow. Neighbours looked the other way. As her little daughter watched and cried, the youths molested the 22-year-old for nearly 20 minutes.

“Don’t you dare go to the police. We will kill your husband,” the men warned before they left. The woman did go to the police, but no note was taken till Congress leader Bishal Sarkar raised the issue at a public meet.

Promising action against the Hridaypur culprits, Bhattacharjee insisted the incident was not a reflection of the law and order in Bengal. “Certain unfortunate incidents have indeed taken place, but the overall situation in Bengal is still the best.”

But the two women would not agree. “I was viciously teased and tormented at a place like Hridaypur, which is only 15 km from Calcutta. I don’t feel safe outside my home and there is no option left for me to save my honour except leaving the job,” she told her employer, handing him the resignation.

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