The family had just come from Bangladesh — the father was still across the border — and the mother, after being refused any help by her frightened neighbours, finally moved out.
“We don’t know where she went,” admitted Hitlal Bain of Pratibadi Mancha, the association that was the first to mobilise villagers against the terror. “They could have gone back to Bangladesh,” he added.
Parbati Das is one woman whose husband left her because of the “social stigma”. She and her husband were forced off the van-rickshaw, by Chaudhuri and his men, while they were coming to her parents’ place (near Sutia) from their Maslandapur residence. “It was quite dark and we were taken to Sukhsadhur Bhita (a place now in ruins) where I was stripped and photographed,” she told The Telegraph. “I was tortured for over five hours in the presence of my husband,” she added.
She paid Rs 10,000 — by borrowing the amount at inordinately high rates — to get back the negatives which she destroyed, she said. Her husband has, however, refused to take her back and she is now staying with her parents and her sons.
Kaberi Biswas was another victim stripped, filmed and tortured in front of her husband and son at the same place by Chaudhuri and his men. Her torture left her in a condition that required several visits to a Gobardanga clinic to repair it. This family, too, had to pay Rs 10,000 to escape more pain and embarrassment.
Men, too, have not escaped. Balai Chakraborty was forced to part with Rs 10,000 after being stripped and filmed in a compromising position with one of his neighbours. The female neighbour has now fled to Gobardanga, say their neighbours. Madhai Ray and Niranjan Biswas of Gazna had their private parts maimed when they protested.
Officials say there have been three “specific complaints of rape” and all the women have recorded their statements. The modus operandi remained the same everywhere; a family of landless peasants and uprooted from Bangladesh would be picked on and then given the treatment that left them with no option but to pay the “settlement money”.
Officials are now confident of wrapping up the case though mancha members allege relatives and henchmen of the accused are turning up the heat again. “But, this time, we’ll fight to the end,” Bain said, adding that the high-profile official visit had given them the courage.