Anita at Tamluk district hospital. Picture by Jahangir Badsa
Tamluk, May 3: A police team has been accused of playing along with a seething mob by portraying a woman as a history-sheeter and leaving her at the mercy of the crowd that pierced her with needles, burnt her with cigarette stubs and rubbed sand into her eyes in East Midnapore.
Anita Mullick, 45, said she was forced to get off a bus at Chhoyfugar village on Tuesday afternoon after a co-passenger accused her of stealing her jewellery.
“I was tied to a tree and beaten up intermittently for around six hours with brooms and shoes. Around 11pm, five policemen came to rescue me. But to my dismay, the policemen told the villagers that I had a criminal record and went away,” said Anita, a child scheme worker.
A senior district police officer of East Midnapore said tonight that there were “no criminal cases” against Anita either in Nandakumar police station, which oversees the area where she was attacked, or in Sutahat, where she lived. “We don’t know on what basis the assistant sub-inspector and four constables made such a claim,” he said.
Police sources said sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Parijat Biswas questioned the five cops and sought an explanation from the officer in charge of Nandakumar police station why no complaint was taken against them.
Prabir Jana, a member of the local Trinamul Congress-led Shaoraberia-Jalpai gram panchayat, said: “I had tried to pacify the mob but they were not willing to listen. I stood at a distance, fearing that I too would be beaten up if I interfered further. When the police arrived, the villagers asked them to go away. The policemen initially wanted to take the woman to the police station but the mob refused. After some time, the policemen, all of whom were armed, left.”
Anita said after the police left, the attackers took her to the courtyard of a house 100 metres away, pierced her with needles, burnt with cigarette stubs and rubbed sand into her eyes. “Soon, my eyes swelled and I could not see. I lay in the courtyard unconscious till another police team rescued me around noon (yesterday),” she said.
Officer in charge of Nandakumar police station Swarup Basak refused comment when asked why the first team took no action.
But an officer of the police station said on condition of anonymity: “The team was surrounded by an extremely hostile crowd. It seems that to save their skin, the policemen branded the woman a criminal and beat a retreat.”
Recounting her ordeal, Anita said that on Tuesday afternoon, she was standing at a bus stop in Tamluk when a group of youths waved drug-laced handkerchiefs in front of her and another woman standing beside her. “Both of us became disoriented for some time. Others at the bus stop helped us onto the bus. After some time, I realised that my earrings, necklace and bangles had been stolen.”
“To my horror, the other woman (Namita Mondal) started accusing me of stealing her jewellery. Other co-passengers and the conductor joined in and I was forced to get off at Chhoyfugar,” Anita said.
Namita, who lives in the village, raised a hue and cry and other residents gathered. “They held a salishi and decided that I would be beaten to death,” Anita said.
Among the mob was a distant relative of Anita, who informed the latter’s husband and son. When the two arrived from Sutahat after a few hours, they were locked up by the villagers. After they were released at 3am on Wednesday, they sought the help of local Trinamul leaders they knew. “They told the police but the cops dragged their feet, finally sending another team around noon,” Anita’s husband Swapan, a causal worker at Haldia Dock Complex, said.
The couple’s son Shankar alleged that when he went to lodge a complaint at Nandakumar police station, “the on-duty officer asked me not to name in the FIR the policemen who made the false accusations”. Anita said: “It appears that the officer tried to protect his colleagues.”
Asked why there was so much delay in sending the second police team, an officer of the police station said: “We had thought that the local panchayat would be able to control the situation. We did not realise the gravity of the situation. Then we got phone calls from various people and arranged for the force. We sent around 20 armed policemen to rescue the woman.”
District police chief S.K. Jain said the allegations were being probed. Nobody had been arrested till tonight.
S. Bandopadhyay, a surgeon who examined Anita at Tamluk district hospital, said she had suffered multiple external injuries. “She suffered a head injury too. I prescribed a CT scan. Her vision has been affected and I have referred her to an ophthalmologist.”