The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Callous’ cops face rights panel flak

The state human rights panel has come down heavily on the Habra police for its “callous and insincere” handling of a case, involving a minor girl, who was sexually tortured and sold off at a brothel in Uttar Pradesh.

The girl, Apura, had managed to flee from the clutches of her tormentors and filed a complaint with the police in Habra. But she was subjected to further mental agony at the hands of the policemen, who ignored the victim’s plight, the rights panel has observed in its report.

In 1998, Apura was kidnapped by a woman, Munni Bibi, of Habra, with the help of some hoodlums and sold off to a brothel in Uttar Pradesh. A person called Santosh took her to his house in a remote UP village and forced her to take to prostitution.

However, Apura managed to contact a member of a voluntary organisation, Centre for Communication and Development (CCD), in the village.

CCD members pressured Santosh and Munni Bibi to return to Habra with Apura, who wanted to meet her parents. “We coaxed them into believing that Apura would return to the brothel after meeting her parents. But once she reached Habra, Apura narrated her tale to her father Ayub Mondol,” said CCD secretary Swapan Mukherjee.

Mondol lodged a complaint with the police on May 3, 2000, and gave a statement under Section 164 in presence of a magistrate. The police arrested both Santosh and Munni Bibi.

Just when Apura thought that her ordeals were over, Munni Bibi came out of prison on bail and used her influence to pressure the family into withdrawing all charges against her and Santosh. “Even the police paid regular visits to our house and asked me and my father to withdraw charges,” recalled Apura.

Left with no alternative, Mondol lodged a complaint with the state human rights commission. After two years of investigation, the panel has submitted its recommendations to the state government.

The panel has recommended “stern action” against the investigating officer of the case “for lacking professional efficiency”. It has also warned the then officer-in-charge of Habra police station to be “more careful in effective supervision of cases”. The police have finally given chargesheets against the two accused, which the rights panel has observed, were unnecessarily delayed.

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