Ranitala, Nov. 13: Self-proclaimed judges of a Murshidabad village sat inside a police station yesterday and decided that a fine of Rs 4,000 was enough to punish a teenage rapist.
Neither the victim, Julekha (name changed), nor her deaf-mute husband Masadul Sheikh attended the meeting presided over by sub-inspector Haralal Biswas.
Biswas today pleaded that what he had done was under instructions from officer-in-charge Tamal Ghosh. “Nothing can take place inside a police station without the OC’s sanction. I oversaw the settlement. I will not say anything more.”
The OC has gone on leave and was not available for comment.
Abdul Alim Sheikh, the father of the 17-year-old accused Saheb, was present at the meeting. He readily agreed to pay the fine, a fourth of which will be spent on the “development of Hosnabad village”.
Julekha, the mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old son, will get Rs 3,000.
Stunned on hearing about the police station rape verdict, district superintendent of police Rahul Srivastava asked Lalbag subdivisional police officer Ashesh Roy to the visit Ranitala tonight.
“We will arrest the boy. A case will be initiated against those who held the shalishi inside the police station. They did not have any right to do so,” the superintendent said.
Rape victim Manoara Bibi (name changed) of Katabagan in Murshidabad was dubbed a woman with “loose morals” by a village shalishi in July, asked to divorce her husband and marry her rapist.
When the rapist refused to marry her, the shalishi ordered him to pay Manoara a fine of Rs 18,000, but only after her divorce was through.
Manoara was branded “characterless” and asked to leave her village and return only after she got a divorce, though her husband wanted to stay with her.
Around 1.30 am on November 6, Julekha was sleeping in an open veranda with her husband and son when Saheb allegedly sneaked into their premises and pounced on the 22-year-old woman, taking it for granted that deaf-mute Masadul would not be able to hear her cries for help.
“I tried to reach out to my husband, but could not. I cried out but he could not hear me. But after some time, he woke up and tried to get hold of Saheb. He fled,” said Julekha.
Alarmed by the commotion, villagers arrived and took the couple to the police camp in neighbouring Barianagar. Julekha submitted a written complaint, addressed to the Ranitala officer-in-charge, with the help of the villagers.
The next morning, Saheb was taken to the Ranitala police station, where he was kept in the lock-up till yesterday.
The officer-in-charge summoned Saheb’s father to the police station but he did not go fearing arrest.
Then, following officer Ghosh’s orders, the village elders, led by Forward Bloc leader Jahangir Hossain, held the shalishi meeting.
“We know that Rs 4,000 cannot compensate a rape. But we held the shalishi following pressure from some villagers and the police,” said Jahangir.
Besides asking Saheb’s father to pay the fine, the shalishi tried to make light of the rape charge by concluding that Julekha was having an “illicit relationship” with the boy.