Calcutta, Jan. 20: A 21-year-old housekeeping hand of Shoppers Stop in South City Mall was allegedly raped by five men in a lorry parked on the premises of a Kidderpore godown while she was on her way home after work last night.
Mohammad Hamid, a 21-year-old hand at the godown, was arrested tonight in connection with the rape. The police claimed he had confessed to the crime.
The woman, who was allegedly dumped near Babughat, managed to walk to Howrah station, from where her mother and uncle took her to a hospital.
When they took her to Howrah State General Hospital around 7.30am, she was still bleeding. “A medical test confirmed sexual assault. She needed three stitches,” said a doctor at the Howrah hospital.
In the evening, she was shifted to Belle Vue Clinic, where doctors said she was conscious and stable. According to government sources, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is in north Bengal, has instructed the administration to bear the cost of treatment.
“The woman was raped in the Grand Azad Garage on Kabitirtha Sarani. We have also identified the lorry,” said an officer of the detective department, which is investigating the case.
Grand Azad is an abandoned godown a stone’s throw from Watgunge police station, where the FIR was lodged. The premises, with a large sandy patch where lorries are loaded and unloaded, is next to the Merlin Riverview residential estate and about 250 metres from the Kabitirtha Sarani-Diamond Harbour Road crossing in Kidderpore.
People in the neighbourhood said the godown premises turned into a vice den after sundown.
According to a statement by the woman’s mother to the police, her daughter had left her workplace, where she is a housekeeping hand, around 9.25pm. She was waiting outside the mall for a bus to Howrah station — from where she was to take a train to her home in Kulgachhia, near Uluberia — when two female colleagues offered her a lift in their taxi.
“After the colleagues got off the taxi at Park Circus, she asked the driver to take her to Howrah but he refused. The statement mentions that the girl was dropped at the Kidderpore crossing,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, the joint commissioner (crime) of Calcutta police, which took over the case from their counterparts in Howrah.
Investigators said it was not clear why a detour was taken to Kidderpore on way to Howrah station. The police were not able to speak to the girl till late on Monday because she was unwell and had been anaesthetised at the Howrah hospital.
The mother’s statement said her daughter was waiting at the crossing for a bus when someone tapped her from behind. She turned around to see a man standing before her and four other unknown men overpowered her from behind.
“She was allegedly threatened with a knife and bundled into a car. The victim’s mother could not say what type or make the car was,” added Ghosh. The girl was then driven to the godown where she was “gang raped in a stationary lorry” by the five.
The accused later returned her cell phone, which they had allegedly snatched from her, and dropped her near Babughat in the car. The woman lost consciousness near Babughat. When she came to, she started walking towards Howrah station.
“Despite her physical condition, she managed to reach platform 15 at the station. By then, she had called her aunt and narrated her plight to her uncle when he took the call. The woman’s mother and her uncle picked her up from the station early on Monday,” said Ghosh. They took the girl to the Howrah hospital.
Sources in the hospital said she had scratches on her and was bleeding heavily. “It took half an hour to stop her bleeding. She had bruises on her body and she had to be administered saline and blood,” said sources in the hospital.
Junior health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya and Calcutta police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha visited the woman at Belle Vue in the evening.
“Calcutta police are investigating the matter at the highest level. The deputy commissioners of port division and the detective department and other senior officers are looking into the case. We have arrested one person called Mohammed Hamid and he has confessed to the crime,” the commissioner said later.
Hamid has been slapped with gang rape (Section 376D of the IPC) and other charges. The gang rape charge carries a minimum punishment of 20 years in jail.
A spokesperson for Shoppers Stop said: “The victim is a temporary staff hired by a third party workforce provider, M/s Chatterjee Cleaning Arts Services Pvt. Ltd. We are extending our complete cooperation for the investigations being carried out by the local authorities. We are extending all help and support to the victim and her family.”