A young man who had challenged a group of six harassing a girl on a busy Calcutta road has learnt the hard way that he is as much an accused in the police’s eyes as the rowdies they let off within an hour.
Satadru Roy, a 28-year-old commerce graduate from St. Xavier’s College, was injured trying to protect the unidentified girl he saw being teased and nudged near Bankshall court in central Calcutta around 6.30pm last Wednesday.
But more than the swollen wrist and broken watch that he ended up with, what hurt was the police’s reaction to his chivalry. Officers at Lalbazar allegedly refused him a chair and asked why they shouldn’t file a case against him for giving one of the accused a cut lip.
That he stood up for a girl being tormented, bucking the trend in a city where people are known to drive or walk past even accident victims, didn’t count. The accused were allowed to go in less than an hour and a case wasn’t started against them until Friday afternoon, after almost two days of prodding by Metro for updates on the progress of the investigation.
The gang of six faces charges of wrongful restraint, using obscene gestures and songs, outrage of modesty and voluntarily causing hurt, but none of them had been caught until late on Friday.
A disillusioned Satadru recounts to Metro the incident that made him realise how the “system” discourages people from coming forward to help others in distress.
It was around 6.30pm. My friend Uttam Bagchi and I had just crossed the road in front of the GPO when I spotted a girl in a yellow top, 18 to 19 years old. Two boys were eyeing her. One of them started passing lewd comments and the other began nudging her. The girl tried to move away but the boys followed her.
I could not contain myself; I grabbed the one who had elbowed the girl by his collar. I asked him: “How is she related to you?” He muttered that he didn’t know the girl.
I slapped the boy when he tried to push me. His accomplice tried to flee but I caught him too. In a trice, four other boys surrounded and started raining blows on me. Uttam was fortunately around to help me. A passer-by, Samir Roy, also came to my aid.
By the time the group of boys realised I wasn’t alone, they had injured my wrist and broken my watch. One of them scratched my arm.
Uttam and Samir assisted me in dragging the six boys to Lalbazar (around 200 metres away). I narrated the incident to an officer, who directed us to an office with a glass door. The person at the desk called Hare Street police station.
Leaving the boys inside, we stepped out. I called up joint commissioner (crime) Pallab Kanti Ghosh, whose number I had, and told him what had happened. He asked me to come over to his office. Just as I was about to do so, an officer from Hare Street police station, sub-inspector F. Sohail, arrived and ushered us into a room. Apart from the three of us and Sohail, another officer from Lalbazar was present.
The six boys were made to sit in front of the room on two benches. I narrated the incident all over again to Sohail, who seemed to be taking notes in his diary. He took our names, addresses, fathers’ names and phone numbers.
“Meyeti kothay (where is the girl)?” Sohail asked. I told him that despite my requests, the girl did not accompany us.
“Are you aware that a case can be started against you for beating up these boys?” he shot back.
When they were questioned, the boys admitted to harassing the girl. But the other officer kept staring at me, as if I was the one who had committed the crime.
When I asked for a glass of water, the response was: “Thik kore daraan (stand properly).”
Someone came into the room to say we had been summoned to deputy commissioner (detective department, special) Santosh Pandey’s office. Apparently the joint commissioner (crime) had asked him to look into the case.
I asked Sohail if we needed to give our statements in writing. He said it wasn’t needed.
Pandey congratulated me for showing courage. The next day, I came to know that the six boys had been let off. They had been charged with “disorderly conduct” in the absence of a written complaint.
I filed a delayed written complaint with Hare Street police station on Friday. I was told that Sohail had been rebuked and a probe had started.
I wonder what message the police are trying to send to us citizens.