The auto in which the schoolgirl was allegedly molested; (circled) the spot on Bakrahat Road where she jumped out of the moving vehicle. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
A 17-year-old schoolgirl jumped off a moving autorickshaw after being allegedly molested by a driver who had pretended to know her family and promised to drop her home during a spell of heavy rain on Monday evening.
The incident at Thakurpukur, in Behala, has left the girl so traumatised that she refuses to meet even relatives visiting her home. “She has cuts and bruises on her forehead, knees and hands. But we are more worried about her mental state. She hasn’t been eating properly and is confined to her room,” the girl’s father told Metro.
Some residents who had seen the Class XII student jump out of the auto on Bakrahat Road waylaid driver Samar Manna, 37, and handed him over to the police. Manna, a resident of Haridevpur, has been charged with molestation (Section 354 of the IPC) and remanded in judicial custody till August 19. If proved guilty, he faces a jail term of up to five years and a fine.
According to the girl’s family, she was returning to her Pragati Park home after taking private tuition at Behala Chowrasta around 9.30pm when she met the accused.
The student of science alighted from an autorickshaw at Thakurpukur Bazar on Diamond Harbour Road and was walking back home in the rain when Manna called out to her. He allegedly claimed to know who she was and asked her to hop in, saying he would drop her home.
“The driver told my daughter that he knew our family well. Since the auto was empty, he offered to make a detour from his route and drop her at our doorstep. She generally prefers to walk from Thakurpukur Bazar to our home, a distance that can be covered in 10 minutes. She told us that the heavy rain and the driver’s feigned friendliness made her get into the auto on Monday evening,” the girl’s father, a central government employee, said.
The first sign of the driver’s allegedly dishonourable intentions was his suggestion that the girl sit beside him. “She had got into the rear of the auto but Manna asked her to take the front seat, saying he would pick up passengers on the way,” the father said.
When the schoolgirl sat to the driver’s left, he made her sit to his right. “The moment she took the seat, the driver began misbehaving with my daughter. She asked him to stop the vehicle but he continued accelerating. She was scared and jumped out of the moving auto a few blocks ahead of the lane leading to our house,” the teenager’s father said.
Bystanders came to the girl’s rescue after she fell on the road and injured herself. Some of them stopped Manna, dragged him out and assaulted him before the police arrived.
Last week, an auto driver was arrested on BT Road for allegedly trying to abduct a 27-year-old homemaker travelling alone in his three-wheeler around 10pm.
In March, an auto driver in north Calcutta allegedly took a woman passenger in the wrong direction and abused and pushed her out when she protested. Two months earlier, an auto driver in New Alipore allegedly grabbed a woman by her throat following an argument over small change. Another young woman was left with a bloodied nose after being slapped twice by an auto driver at the Taratala crossing for the same reason.
Monday’s incident would make women commuters more wary of sitting beside auto drivers, a common practice across Calcutta. “Until two years ago, I didn’t hesitate to sit beside a driver whenever the rear seat was full. I now request male passengers in the rear seat to come to the front,” said Shaoni Chowdhury, who commutes between Behala Chowrasta and Rashbehari Avenue by auto.