Guwahati, July 18: A two-member delegation of the National Commission for Women (NCW), led by its chairperson Mamta Sharma, met chief minister Tarun Gogoi today and submitted a set of recommendations to prevent a repeat of the July 9 molestation.
Police today questioned former editor-in-chief of News Live television channel Atanu Bhuyan for allegedly sending threatening and abusive SMS to a woman on her cellphone last night.
The NCW delegation submitted a list of 17 recommendations, prepared on the basis of the report submitted by its fact-finding committee, headed by NCW member Wansuk Syiem. Sharma, who described the meeting as fruitful, said the chief minister had accepted all the recommendations but she refused to divulge details of the report.
“We have requested the chief minister to ensure a time-bound investigation and to set up a fast-track court for speedy trial. All the culprits in this case should be brought to book and be punished according to law. We condemn this incident and want an impartial investigation of the matter,” she added. The NCW chairperson, who was accompanied by NCW member Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, also met Assam director-general of police Jayanto Narayan Choudhury and chief secretary N.K. Das.
The commission has recommended immediate support and psychological counselling for the victim and a government job in accordance with the state policy. It has also recommended setting up of a 24x7 helpline for women, a women’s cell in every police station of the state, proper shelter for molestation/rape victims whose families were not ready to protect them, installation of CCTV cameras outside all pubs and instruction to bar owners to check age-proof of customers. “Police patrolling with women police personnel should be introduced to curb such incidents. Special police pickets, comprising women personnel, should be set up at all the 128 pubs up to 10.30pm for the security and safety of women,” Sharma said.
“Police stations in the state should be instructed to take such calls immediately, without going into the jurisdiction of territory, and inform the relevant police station so that the victim gets immediate help,” she added. “There were lapses on part of the police such as delay in reaching the spot. The police took around 45 minutes to reach the spot,” she said, adding that action should be taken against the police personnel responsible for the crime.
The commission has also sought action against those protecting and hiding culprits. Expressing concern over “public apathy”, Sharma said action should be taken against those who remained mute spectators to the incident.
Sharma, however, raised the hackles of the Adivasi community in the state, particularly on the north bank, by not meeting Laxmi Orang, who was assaulted and stripped by a mob in Guwahati in 2007.
Returning home to Biswanath Chariali from Guwahati, Orang told The Telegraph, “When I came to know that the NCW was visiting, I tried to meet its members to seek justice but they refused to meet me. I am surprised. I have been fighting for justice for the past five years, but to no avail. Is it because I am an Adivasi?” She could not meet the July 9 victim either.
Eva Rani Piomarki, president of Sonitpur district Adivasi Mahila Samity, said, “The commission is for every woman. Then why are they treating us like this?”
The Sonitpur district unit of Assam Tea Tribes Student Association criticised the NCW for not meeting Orang. The unit’s president, Krishna Kaman Tanti, said the commission’s attitude was “stepmotherly”.
In the Assembly, making a statement on behalf of the chief minister, who also holds the home portfolio, forest minister Rakibul Hussain today said of the 17 accused, 12 have been arrested so far.
“For speedy investigation of the case, a special investigation team, led by superintendent of police (operations) Ranjan Bhuyan, has been constituted. The SIT probe will be monitored by additional director-general of police, CID, Mukesh Sahay,” he said. Moreover, seven police teams, including women personnel, have been constituted to prevent any such incident, he added.
The minister told the Assembly that the victim had been given two personal security officers for her security and a compensation of Rs 50,000.
One of the friends of the victim deposed before Emily Das Chowdhary inquiry committee today.
Chandmari police registered a case against former editor-in-chief of News Live television channel Atanu Bhuyan, based on an FIR lodged by a woman this morning.
A police source said the complainant had identified herself as Kalpana Singh Laishram, a Delhi-based correspondent of a foreign newspaper, who is currently in the city for reporting the July 9 incident of molestation of a girl on GS Road.
“She said she had received a threatening SMS from Bhuyan last night,” the source said, adding that the complainant had claimed to be associated with the United Nations.
Laishram also told the police that she had received threatening calls from unidentified persons late last night after which two unidentified persons attacked her and snatched her mobile phone. She said the incident happened at her friend’s residence at Pension Para Road in Chandmari where she is staying, the source said.
She, however, could not be contacted.
The case against Bhuyan was registered under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 392 (robbery), 307 (attempt to murder), 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 447 (criminal trespass), 34 (criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication), Section 507 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention) of IPC.
He was called to the police station today and questioned by police officers, including the deputy superintendent of police of Chandmari division Ujjal Pratim Baruah. The police also examined his mobile phone records before he was allowed to go.
“Bhuyan was not arrested since we are yet to get any evidence to establish the charges against him. Investigations are on,” the source said.
Bhuyan told reporters that the allegations against him were baseless and he would lodge a counter-FIR against the complainant for defaming him. Claiming that his life was under threat, he said he had become a victim of a conspiracy.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Bhuyan said the police had come to his house and seized his phone. “However, I requested the police to get a detailed list from the service provider. Once they got that, it was clear that nothing had been sent from my phone. That is when they said there was nothing in it at all and returned my phone.”
Bhuyan, who resigned as the editor-in-chief of the private news channel yesterday after coming under fire for filming the molestation incident, also quit from the board of directors of News Live this morning. The board of the company Pride East Entertainments Pvt Ltd, which owns News Live, is headed by Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, wife of health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. While Sarma is the CMD, Bhuyan was one of the four directors.
There were allegations that the televised molestation of the girl outside a pub on GS Road was orchestrated by reporter of the TV channel, Gaurav Jyoti Nego, who has also resigned. Neog, however, claimed that he “happened to pass by” when the molestation happened and today moved Gauhati High Court for anticipatory bail.