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New Market hawker held for ‘molest’

A key witness in the 2012 Park Street gang-rape case accused a New Market street hawker of molesting her on Saturday night and alleged that police made her wait four hours to lodge a complaint.

The accused, Ashbul Ansari, was arrested and charged under IPC Section 509 (using word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).

The 22-year-old woman, a resident of Narkeldanga, alleged that she was assaulted around 9.30pm on Saturday while she was buying a bag from hawkers in front of New Market with members of her family.

She said the police kept insisting “on an amicable settlement” before taking her complaint. “I had to wait for over hour hours after I sought police help. The man in his 30s had taken a picture of my sister with his cell phone and when I protested he pushed and abused me.”

“My mother, 14-year-old sister and six-year-old niece were with me,” she said.

The woman had deposed in court in the February 2012 gang-rape case. She had seen the Park Street victim leave a nightclub along with the accused, the police said.

As she confronted the man on Saturday night, the woman was surrounded by other hawkers and she had to rush to a nearby police kiosk for help. “They informed New Market police station from where more personnel arrived. Police took the hawker to the police station. I told them that I want to lodge an FIR,” she said.

“When I reached the police station, I saw several hawkers talking to a police officer,” she said.

The woman approached the officer to lodge her complaint. “The officer said the hawker had deleted my sister’s photograph by the time they took the cell phone from him. He said proving my complaint would be difficult since the prime evidence (the photograph) has been lost,” she alleged.

She alleged that the officer kept insisting that matter be solved amicably. “But I stood my ground and told him clearly that I would not have anything less than an FIR. I wanted lawful action against the hawker.”

The woman said she had to wait till 2.30am on Sunday to lodge the complaint.

“The officer made us sit in a room. He left the police station thrice. It was quite scary. A group of hawkers were waiting outside,” she alleged.

The police said no evidence or witness was found to corroborate the woman’s allegations against the hawker.

“We found no photograph in the cell phone of the accused. We took time to conduct a preliminary investigation to ascertain what happened and, hence, it took time to lodge the complaint,” said an officer of New Market police station.

On May 8, a hawker in New Market allegedly slapped a 21-year-old girl when she confronted him for abusing her younger sister who had accidentally stepped on his bags laid out on the footpath. The girl allegedly grabbed the bag-seller by his collar and dragged him to the nearest police outpost on Lindsay Street.