| Police disperse the crowd that had gathered on the Malda hospital campus. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, Sept. 20: A constable of the National Volunteer Force was nearly lynched after he was caught allegedly trying to rape a woman inside a police camp on the Malda district hospital campus early this morning.
Police later rescued Piyari Mahato and got him admitted to the hospital, where doctors said his condition was serious.
The Malda superintendent of police, Dilip Mondal, who visited the spot, said he feared that the constable might not live. “He suffered severe head injuries. The men who beat him up have been identified. They will not be spared if Mahato dies,” Mondal added.
Mahato has been arrested and booked for attempted rape. A case has also been initiated against the mob for the assault on the constable and damaging public property.
The 50-year-old woman has been visiting the hospital regularly for the past two months to look after her daily wage labourer husband, who first had a gangrene that later led to an amputation of the leg. She is a resident of Ramnagar village, 35km from here.
Eyewitnesses said around 5.30am, the woman was brushing her teeth near the police camp — a one-storeyed building with tin roof located on the hospital campus — after spending the night at the rest house for relatives of patients, when Mahato came up from behind and lifted her off her feet. Before she could react, he had taken her inside the police camp and locked the door. Two other constables who were on duty with him were not inside the camp at that time.
The few people who were awake said at first they were too shocked to react. Soon the woman started screaming for help. Within minutes, a mob of 200 had assembled and they broke open the door to find the woman struggling to free herself from Mahato’s clutches. They then beat up the constable, who was reportedly drunk.
Mahato’s colleagues tried to rescue him, but the mob chased them away.
Two hours later, a force headed by inspector-in-charge Prasad Pradhan arrived from Englishbazar. The woman told the police that on earlier occasions too the constable— in his early fifties—had “misbehaved” with her. “But it never occurred to me that he might try rape me. When he caught me from behind, I was too terrified to react. I started screaming when he bolted the door and started groping me.”
The in-charge of the camp, Anjan Dutta, said Mahato had been behaving oddly for sometime. “We had told our superiors, but nobody paid any heed. He used to speak to himself loudly.”
A two-hour road blockade was put up on NH34 at Rathbari from 8am by the Youth Congress to protest against the alleged rape attempt.