Tamluk, Aug. 18: A CPM member’s wife was found hanging in her home in East Midnapore this morning and her husband has alleged she was gang-raped and murdered by Trinamul supporters who demanded she should pay Rs 12 lakh if he did not show up before them.
The allegation of rape and murder overshadowed a disclosure that police were last night alerted about the danger the woman faced but no investigation was carried out immediately because of a purported second call saying the trouble had ended.
Had the police chosen to verify the matter themselves as they are expected to do instead of relying on the second call that is being disputed now, perhaps tragedy — whether murder or suicide — could have been averted.
Sources at the local subdivisional hospital said external injuries were found on the lady’s body. Doctors said gang rape or murder could be confirmed only after the post-mortem report and results of other tests were available.
Trinamul leaders denied the involvement of any party worker or leader in the case and said the lady committed suicide as she was “depressed because her husband was staying away from home”. Local Trinamul MLA Dibyendu Adhikari said: “This is a case of suicide and the CPM is playing politics.”
The husband said he had fled home after the 2011 Assembly elections in the face of Trinamul threats. He worked as a labourer in Odisha and had returned to East Midnapore a few days back. He said he was staying in a CPM office 40km from his village as he could not return home.
The husband alleged that Trinamul workers had confronted his wife more than once since yesterday morning, following which she had told her son not to return home.
Informed by the 16-year-old son, CPM district secretariat member Chakradhar Maikap said he called up the local police station to alert the force about the threat to the lady.
Subir Roy, the inspector-in-charge of the police station, confirmed that the CPM leader had called up yesterday and told him about trouble in the area. “The CPM leader had called on the land line. He told us some trouble was going on but he called up a little later to say there was no trouble any more. So, we did not intervene,” Roy said.
Maikap denied making a second phone call to the police station.
The police station is around 20km away from the house in which the woman was found dead. Whether a second call was made or not, the distance probably hastened the police decision to not pursue the matter further — inexcusable in modern policing but an inescapable reality for stretched law enforcement forces in many parts of the country. The police’s primary responsibility is prevention of crime and failure to do so — or making an immediate attempt — despite information will be difficult to defend.
This morning, alerted by villagers who did not see any sign of life in the house, the police went and broke the door open and found her hanging.
East Midnapore district police chief S.K. Jain said: “The husband of the woman has lodged a complaint of gang rape and murder. We have started an investigation. It will be clear from the post-mortem report whether the woman was raped and murdered.”
The FIR lodged by the husband mentions the names of Debashish Bhuiyan, a local Trinamul panchayat samiti member, and local Trinamul leaders Rudranarayan Giri, Swadesh Jana, Mukul Jana, Pradip Giri, Lakshmikanta Maity and Chandan Maity.
Bhuiyan led the Trinamul group to the lady’s home, according to the husband, who is a CPM local committee member. Bhuiyan could not be contacted today.
The woman was an Integrated Child Development Scheme worker and lived with her son. Her brother-in-law lived next door.
Her husband said: “I heard from my brother and party workers that yesterday, around 11 in the morning, Trinamul leaders and workers, led by panchayat samiti functionary Debashis Bhuiyan, came to our house and demanded that she produce me before them or pay Rs 12 lakh.”
The woman called up her son, who had gone to meet his father at the CPM office 40km away, and told him they must not return home.
The husband said: “The Trinamul men returned around 6pm. My wife told them that as she was an ICDS worker, it was not possible for her to pay such a huge amount.”
The Trinamul group dragged the woman outside to a crossing, the husband said. “There she was beaten up, stripped and molested. Close to 10pm, she was dragged home by the Trinamul men. They left, saying that they would return. Then late in the night, they came again and gang-raped my wife and killed her,” he said.
The lady’s brother-in-law said: “When I went to protest the torture and threats to my sister-in-law, I was beaten up and prevented from going near her.” He said he had gone to rescue the lady when she was dragged to the crossing, but Trinamul leaders and workers did not let him go close to her. Later at night, when the Trinamul workers brought her back, he protested and was beaten up.
Asked why he thought his wife was gang-raped and murdered, the husband said: “Last night, the way she was beaten up and the way the body was hanging with her feet touching the floor, I believe she was gang-raped and murdered.”
The lady’s brother-in-law said Trinamul workers “forced me to give in writing to the police that my sister-in-law committed suicide unable to bear mental torture by some persons”.
Superintendent of police Jain said: “After we got the complaint from the woman’s brother-in-law, we started a case of abetment to suicide. Later, we received the complaint of gang rape and murder from her husband. We have accepted both complaints.”