Barasat, Dec. 15: Three men accused of raping, blackmailing and murdering women in Gaighata of North 24-Parganas were today awarded life sentences by the fast-track court here.
Ripon Biswas, Ramesh Majumder and Sushanta Chowdhury were convicted after Justice Debiprasad De found them guilty of raping 19 women. The trio used to photograph women after raping them and the blackmailing followed. Most victims did not dare to approach police.
The trio was charged under various sections of the IPC. Ten of their accomplices were sentenced to jail terms of varying lengths. Naresh Majumdar and Bablu Poddar of Nagberia village, who are still absconding, were sentenced in absentia.
Most of the victims were illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Biswas, Majumder and Chowdhury used to threaten them saying they would reveal their status to the police if they tried to lodge a complaint.
Hundreds of women who were present in the court premises anticipating the conviction of the trio, welcomed the verdict waving brooms. Women’s rights organisations had led many of the protesting women who tried to attack the accused as they were being taken to the courtroom. Policemen had to move in fast to prevent them from pouncing on the trio.
As relatives and neighbours of victims poured into the premises on trucks and buses the police had a tough time keeping them on a leash. But there was pandemonium once the verdict was delivered as members of NGOs jostled to express their joy at the punishment.
Biswas, Majumder, Chowdhury and their accomplices unleashed a reign of terror at Sutia in Gaighata, about 60 km from Calcutta, in early 2001.
When the victims finally summoned courage to complain, the police refused to accept FIRs. Some of the accused allegedly had links with the CPM leadership. Bireswar Dhali, a local goon who enjoyed the CPM’s patronage, was among those convicted today. He will be in jail for five years.
The sequel of sleaze and torture came to light in September 2001 when local NGOs and voluntary organisations drew the attention of the state women’s commission. A team led by chairperson Yashodhara Bagchi went to Sutia on August 15, 2002, and talked to some of the victims.
The first victim to lodge an official complaint with the Gaighata police was Bijoli Mondal, who accused the trio of raping her in a school building. She sought police protection when the miscreants put pressure on her to withdraw the complaint.
The police swung into action after the women’s commission submitted its report to the government in October 2002.
The revelation of the racket had rocked the administration and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee personally intervened to hasten investigations.