The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Efforts on to save face of rape-stung seaside

Digha, Aug. 30: Two days after the twin rapes by local miscreants near the beach in the seaside town, the Purba Midnapore administration embarked on a damage-control drive.

Nine motorcycle-borne youths had raped the women after tying up their male companions when they were having a stroll after dinner. Six of the gang were arrested after one of the men managed to escape and inform police.

The youths were today remanded in jail custody for 14 days.

“We have deployed a large number of police patrols along the beach and the hotel areas so that the tourists regain confidence and normality is restored before the pujas,” said Purba Midnapore police superintendent Anuj Sharma.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had instructed the home secretary to beef up security for tourists in Digha yesterday.

The two women and their companions have been kept in Digha to assist the police in investigations. “We have sent word to their relatives at Raina in Burdwan,” Sharma said.

Over the years, the district administration turned a blind eye to the flagrant violation of development norms in this seaside destination and criminal elements flourished without any organised resistance. Tourists were easy victims.

“The entire one-and-a-half-kilometre stretch between Old and New Digha has 30 light posts but none of the lamps glow,” alleged Trinamul Congress’ Digha president Debabrata Das.

It is in this dark stretch that the couples were waylaid around 9.30 pm on Wednesday.

Das alleged a nexus between the police and the criminals. He recounted that weeks ago, residents had caught a criminal who had snatched a necklace from a tourist and handed him to the police. “They did not take any action.”

Such incidents, Das alleged, were frequent. “There are a number of dens that sell illicit liquor right under the nose of the police,” he added.

The police, however, refused to admit the charges. The arrest of the six miscreants involved in Wednesday’s incident pointed to the alertness of the force, the police said. “We will see to it that the charges against the criminals are filed in court on time and ensure that they are punished,” Meena asserted.

But the finger pointing game continued.

The CPM said the Trinamul Congress is “importing” anti-socials who are being encouraged to build shanties along the marine drive under the protection of the party.

“The Trinamul people are felling the Casuarina trees and setting up shanties,” alleged CPM branch committee secretary Asit Jana.

All the six arrested are from outside Digha and some of them had illegal shops in the beach town, Jana added.

Residents and tourists continue to zip down the beach in cars and two-wheelers in flagrant violation of the law.

Once a pristine white sand beach, Digha holds up a sorry sight now with plastic bags and pan masala pouches strewn all over. A local hotel-owner said the stretch between Old and New Digha is under the “miscreants’ control”.

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