|chronicles of crime
A 24-year-old mother of two was allegedly drugged and raped by an acquaintance and four other men in a car three nights ago at Maheshtala, a part of Calcutta’s western fringe that has witnessed a real estate boom.
The woman was found groaning by the roadside about 200 metres from Maheshtala police station on Budge Budge Trunk Road on Thursday night, presumably within a couple of hours of the crime.
Police quoted her as saying that she was drowsy but aware of her co-passengers allegedly forcing themselves on her after she had had a few sips of a soft drink offered to her by the acquaintance identified as Raj.
The main accused is absconding but the police arrested his alleged accomplices on Sunday. Co-accused Sheikh Chottu, the driver of the car, Mohammad Taaz, Bijoy Mallick and Sukur Ali are all in their late twenties and residents of the Maheshtala neighbourhood.
The vehicle didn’t have number plates when it was seized.
“It appears that Raj and the other four men raped her after stopping the car somewhere,” an officer probing the incident said. “It is possible that no passing motorist got wind of what was happening inside the vehicle because the windows were rolled up and the stretch of road where it occurred is dark.”
The police suspect the Tata Magic turned back and sped away in the direction of Berabagan Bazar after the accused had dumped the woman near the police station.
“Some residents took her to the nearby primary health centre, from where she was shifted to Vidyasagar State General Hospital. She had a medical test but we have yet to receive the report,” a police officer said.
The woman hadn’t been discharged from hospital until late on Sunday. “She is being administered drip but her condition is stable,” a doctor said.
The woman, who lives with her mother and children, apparently knew Raj well enough to have a snack with him at a roadside eatery in Berabagan Bazar, about 15km from the city centre.
The rape allegedly occurred around 8.30pm, soon after the woman got into the Tata Magic with Raj. “The duo had just finished eating when the Tata Magic stopped near them. The two of them boarded the vehicle,” the police officer said, quoting from her recorded statement.
The woman told investigators that there were three other men in the vehicle, apart from the driver. She said Raj offered her the soft drink minutes after the vehicle started moving down Budge Budge Trunk Road and headed towards the Taratala crossing before taking a left turn to hit Bata Road that leads to Batanagar.
“Soon after consuming the soft drink without any hesitation, I started feeling drowsy. I realised that the other men in the vehicle were physically abusing me but I was in no condition to resist them,” the woman said in her statement to the police.
It isn’t clear where but the Tata Magic, a public transport vehicle that is replacing autos in many of the fringe areas, had apparently stopped somewhere after travelling down Bata Road. The woman told the police that the vehicle was near the crossing of Budge Budge Trunk Road and Bata Road when she had briefly regained consciousness in the middle of her ordeal.
The police couldn’t record the woman’s statement until Friday afternoon because she was in no condition to speak for almost 24 hours.
“A team from Maheshtala police station had visited Vidyasagar State General Hospital on Thursday night but found her drowsy and disoriented because of the spiked soft drink. She narrated her plight on Friday afternoon and we registered a rape case immediately,” the officer said.
A raid that started late on Saturday netted the four co-accused but Raj had fled before the cops knocked on his door. “The four were picked up from their homes. None of them has a crime record, although residents of the neighbourhood say they are goons,” a source said.
The vehicle in which the alleged gang-rape occurred was seized from driver Chottu’s house. An empty soft drink bottle was found in the car.
“Since the woman has alleged that she was drugged before being raped, we need to send the bottle for a forensic test to identify what substance was used to spike her drink,” the source said.
The four co-accused were produced in an Alipore court on Sunday and remanded in police custody till August 6.
Abharu Rabindranath, additional superintendent of police (west), South 24-Parganas, said they had been charged under Section 376D (gang-rape) of the IPC. If proved guilty, they will face a minimum punishment of 20 years in jail. The maximum punishment is a life term.