April 3: A young mother who had alleged a rape attempt committed suicide after being taunted and humiliated at a Malda kangaroo court that asked the accused merely to seek forgiveness, her husband said today.
Accused Nabin Mondal’s mother, who allegedly took the lead in insulting the complainant at the salishi meeting, has been arrested on the charge of abetment to suicide after the 30-year-old died at 4am today. The mother of four had set herself on fire yesterday.
Police are looking for four villagers who the husband said had prevented the couple from going to police and organised the salishi. The dying woman named them along with Nabin, a 22-year-old neighbour, in her police complaint from her hospital bed.
All those who had abused her at the salishi will be booked in the abetment case, an officer said.
The alleged attack took place around 11pm on Monday when the complainant was at home with her children. Her husband, a farm labourer who was not at home that night, said Nabin had raped his wife but the police have registered an attempt-to-rape case based on the woman’s dying declaration.
“On Tuesday, after the husband returned home, the couple decided to file a police complaint but were prevented by four villagers, all day labourers, who convened a salishi on Tuesday evening,” a police source said.
“There, the mother of the accused started abusing the complainant, questioning her character. She was blamed for the entire episode.”
Some 40 villagers came to the meeting, the husband said.
“We demanded that Nabin be punished. But the four who had called the meeting — Ratan Mondal, Biseswar Mondal, Dilip Mondal and Chandradip Dorji — decided he would be let off if he touched my wife’s feet and apologised. He did,” he said.
“My wife could not accept it. I told the four men that if I had slit someone’s throat, would I be let off lightly? At this, they said that from now, if anyone in the village committed rape, he would be fined Rs 25,000.”
He alleged that at the hour-long meeting, “men made nasty remarks and laughed” at his wife. “She rushed back home, humiliated, and poured kerosene on herself on Wednesday morning.”
The police took her statement at the rural hospital, from where she was transferred to Malda Medical College and Hospital, where she died.
“She had suffered 90 per cent burns. There was little we could do,” said hospital deputy superintendent Jyotish Chandra Das.
Malda police chief Rajesh Yadav said the area was being “combed to arrest the accused”.
Kangaroo courts in Bengal, which have no legal standing, often meddle in criminal cases. In Birbhum’s Subalpur, a tribal woman was raped by villagers led by the headman in January as “punishment” for her relationship with a man from a different community. Thirteen people have been arrested.