An alleged serial eve-teaser got his comeuppance on Sunday morning when a group of schoolgirls he had harassed for a year got together to chase him down and give a good old-fashioned thrashing before handing him over to police.
Purnendu Goswami, 27, had turned up as usual at Keota Latbagan in Bandel, around 60km from Calcutta, to allegedly leer at and make obscene gestures at girls headed for a nearby coaching centre in the morning.
Only this time, the hunter would become the hunted.
“As planned, around 15 of us split into three groups and waited for him to do his routine. Just as a girl passed by, he made lewd remarks and took off on his bicycle without realising that he was being watched. Two groups chased him and another waiting at a distance intercepted him,” recounted Sumita Paul, a student of Class XII.
She and the rest, all Class XII girls, had met on Saturday evening to plan the “operation” to catch Purnendu, who lives at Wajidnagar, near Sahagunj in Hooghly district, and works in a biscuit factory at Polba, off Delhi Road.
“He wasn’t just harassing us with dirty remarks and gestures, he would sometimes get close and try to pull us by the hand and tug at our dupattas. Before anyone managed to fight back, he would flee on his bicycle,” recalled Sangita Majumdar.
The girls — students of Shyamaprosad Jatiya Vidyalaya in Hooghly, Balika Vidyalaya in Bandel and Haranath Balika Vidyalaya in Chinsurah — hadn’t lodged a complaint with the police for fear of more harassment if their tormentor wasn’t caught.
On Sunday, the police hailed the girls as “role models” for daring to stand up to their alleged tormentor. “They did the right thing,” said an officer at Chinsurah police station of the beating that Purnendu got.
The girls’ tutors knew about the plan and were waiting near Kacharipara More to help them catch Purnendu if he tried to get away.
When one of the groups waylaid him, Purnendu lost balance on his bicycle and fell into a roadside drain. A crowd had gathered by then to watch the biscuit factory employee’s cookie crumble.
Some egged on the girls as they went after Purnendu, bathed in muck, with their sandals and shoes.
“After seeing him get away with this ever since I started coming to this coaching centre, I think he deserved what he got today,” said a member of the Class XII crack(down) team.
A team from Chinsurah police station arrived after a few minutes and took away the biscuit factory employee. The coaching centre lodged an FIR on behalf of its students in the afternoon, accusing Purnendu of regularly harassing them.
He has been booked under sections 509 (word, gesture or act intended to outrage the modesty of a woman) and 354 of the IPC (assault or criminal force against a woman with intent to outrage her modesty).