The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now, rape court in panchayat office
July 2006
Manoara Biwi is raped. A village court brands her immoral and orders her to divorce her husband and marry her rapist
Nov. 2006
Zulekha Biwi is attacked. Villagers led by a Forward Bloc leader meet inside a police station and fine the culprit

Samshergunj, Nov. 16: After a neighbourhood youth tried to violate her eight-year-old daughter, Banita Sarkar went to police on Sunday.

The officer on duty at Samshergunj police station not only refused to accept her FIR, but also advised the housewife to meet the elders at Bogdadnagar to “settle the issue through a shalishi”.

Having filed a general diary, the mother went to the village panchayat.

The chief of the CPM-led body, Prabal Sarkar, announced that a kangaroo court would be held in the panchayat office. Prabal, his assistant Sariful Hossain, former Murshidabad zilla parishad functionary Nur Mohammad and some other villagers who sat on the jury found Rinku Sarkar, a 20-year-old unemployed youth, guilty.

They also pronounced his punishment: to crawl 30 feet with his nose touching the ground and apologise by touching Banita’s feet.

The officer in charge of the police station, Mohammad Masqur, admitted that the nature of the complaint called for an FIR. After a general diary is lodged, the police are under no compulsion to start a case or a formal probe.

The OC also tried to stand by his colleagues. “The police went to the village but could not find Rinku Sarkar at home,” he said, as if expecting him to wait for them.

Jangipur subdivisional officer Param Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has ordered the block development officer of Samshergunj, about 280 km from Calcutta, to probe how a shalishi could be held inside a panchayat office.

Sariful Hossain defended his court. “In every village, some codes of conduct are followed. Those who violate them will have to be punished. We held the shalishi following the people’s demand.”

Banita had left her eight-year-old daughter at home and gone to a neighbour’s on Sunday. Rinku Sarkar entered the house, molested Anita and tried to rape her. Attracted by her cries, Banita rushed back and saw the man running out.

“My daughter was in shock. I gathered what had happened by speaking to her,” the 30-year-old woman said. “At the police station, they told me not to drag the police in as it could bring social stigma.”

The court organised by its leaders has embarrassed the district CPM. “Who gave them the right' We will inquire into it,” said district committee member Chittaranjan Sarkar.

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