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Impersonators held in rape case

Calcutta, Feb. 18: Two youths, Sumit Bajaj (21) and Nishad Khan alias Ruman Khan alias Tussi (25), were arrested today in connection with the rape of a 37-year-old woman in a car on the night of February 5 as police revealed that they had impersonated the men named by the victim in her complaint.

“The other people involved in the case, including the person who had raped the woman, are on the run,” Damayanti Sen, joint commissioner of police (crime), said at a news conference this evening.

Late at night, Lalbazar sources said a man named Kader had been identified as the alleged rapist. His name had earlier been linked to a one-hit Tollywood actress. The sources said another person, Naser, had been detained.

The car, a silver Honda City belonging to Bajaj, has been seized and will be sent for forensic tests.

The police have learnt that Bajaj, the son of a businessman, is a resident of Gariahat and that Khan lives in Beniapukur and has a leather business and a family-owned shop. “They were arrested when they were on their way to Howrah station in an attempt to flee Calcutta,” Sen said.

In her complaint at the Park Street police station on February 9, the woman had said a man who identified himself as Lavi Gidwani and whom she met at Tantra, the nightclub at The Park hotel, had offered her a lift in his car early on February 6. One of Lavi’s friends, whom she named as Sharafat Ali, had also got into the car and raped her at gunpoint in the presence of a third friend, Azhar Ali, the complaint said.

“It was a case of impersonation as the men involved in the crime impersonated as Lavi, Sharafat and Azhar. But our investigations have revealed that these three people were not involved in the incident,” said Sen, giving a clean chit to the persons named in the complaint.

Although the police may have taken their time with the probe, they have ensured that the three youths named initially were not arrested and the alleged impersonators have been identified.

During the investigation, the police had found out that Lavi was in Canada since January 2 and that the cellphone tower locations showed Sharafat and Azhar were not on Park Street when the incident occurred.

Because of these inconsistencies, questions were raised about the veracity of the complaint made by the mother of two daughters. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had described the entire incident as fabricated.

“The incident did take place and the woman was raped,” Damayanti Sen said today. Asked if rape was confirmed, the officer said: “Yes…. In this case the victim’s statement is the most important.”

“Medical report is not always mandatory,” Sen said, adding that the arrested duo had also confirmed that one of their friends did rape the complainant.

Speaking to STAR Ananda after the joint commissioner’s news conference, the victim said: “I fought this battle and I have been successful. It is a victory in all aspects. I got a lot of support from my family and friends. And also from the women of the city.

“After this, I hope all girls will come forward with their complaints. If they do, then Calcutta will be a safer place.”

The police are yet to find the gun allegedly used to terrorise the woman.

According to the police, Khan visited the same Entally gymnasium as Sharafat, Azhar and Lavi. “Khan and Bajaj and the other people in their group have the habit of befriending women at nightclubs… But they never gave out their original names. They used to give out the names of people they knew,” said Sen. “Khan, Bajaj and others in the group would occasionally come across Lavi and his friends in nightclubs….”

The police also found out that the culprits resembled Sharafat and Azhar, which may explain why the woman who checked their pictures on Facebook insisted the two were involved.

“I did not make the names up. These were the names they told me when they met me at Tantra. But I want to apologise to their families if they have been hurt,” the victim told STAR Ananda this evening.

Lavi told The Telegraph from Toronto: “I am relieved that my name has been cleared. The last 72 hours were very difficult. Now I can concentrate on my studies.”