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6 more arrests in molestation case
Cops, Lamba face action

Guwahati/New Delhi, July 16: In a series of developments in the July 9 Guwahati molestation case today, a member of the National Commission for Women was removed from the fact-finding team for disclosing the identity of the victim, two police officers were transferred and six more persons were arrested.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi also lambasted a section of the media for disclosing the identity of the victim, saying it went against journalistic ethics. However, within hours, the government released her photographs in interaction with Gogoi at his residence this evening. But having realised the faux pas, there were hurried appeals not to carry the photographs.

Late this evening, the National Commission for Women removed Alka Lamba, a member of its fact-finding committee sent to Guwahati to inquire into the case, after she revealed the victim’s name.

Lamba had named the victim to reporters on Saturday. However, 48 hours later, from her office in New Delhi, she denied having held a news conference and also said that she didn’t do anything wrong by naming the victim as her name was already in the public domain. “Her name has been doing the rounds in news channels for the past six-seven days. I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

However, after being named officially in public, the victim and her neighbours had been hounded by newspersons.

The NCW did not issue any statement but distanced itself from Lamba, saying she wasn’t its member. Reliable sources said Lamba, who was the DUSU and NSUI president and a member of the Youth Congress, was close to 10 Janpath. Hence the silence over her blatant faux pas.

They said the NCW was also miffed over the fact that Lamba spoke to the media before informing the commission’s chairperson, which is the norm. They added that the inquiry team’s report, which slams the Guwahati police, would be delayed. There are also indications that it could include Lamba’s role during the fact-finding mission.

In Delhi’s corridors, activists are also wondering whether the report, when submitted, should be accepted by the NCW at all.

Sources said the women and child development ministry has spoken to NCW chief Mamata Sharma, asked her to explain Lamba’s insensitive comments and instructed her to submit the report to the ministry.

The NCW team had also cancelled its meeting with chief minister Tarun Gogoi, scheduled for Sunday evening, as the members left the city in the afternoon. The sudden departure had left the Assam State Women’s Commission surprised.

The NCW team visited the victim and personally met her on Saturday and assessed the entire situation. The members also visited the bar where the incident occurred on Monday night and expressed dissatisfaction over the slow action of the city police.

Talking to reporters outside the Assembly today, Gogoi admitted to lapses on part of the police. He said a sub-inspector S. Barua had been suspended on Saturday for dereliction of duty. He also conceded that there was a shortage of police personnel, particularly women, in the city and the state and the government would look into the matter.

Sources today said senior superintendent of police (city) Apurba Jibon Barua has been transferred to Dibrugarh, where he will take over as superintendent of police. Arabinda Kalita, superintendent of police, Dibrugarh, will take over as SSP (city).

The deputy inspector-general, in-charge of central western range, V.K. Ramisetti, is to be replaced, too. However, no official order has been issued so far.

Lambasting the media, Gogoi said, “Journalists, too, have a responsible role in society and in this particular case, they have failed miserably.” He said the role of News Live journalist Gaurav Jyoti Neog was “most unethical”.

“It is all right to videograph the incident as a part of professional duty, but as part of social responsibility, the journalist should have immediately informed the police,” he added.

On RTI activist Akhil Gogoi’s allegation of Neog instigating the mob, Gogoi said whoever was found guilty, irrespective of whether he was a journalist, MLA or a Congressman, would be brought to book. “It was a shameful incident and such incidents should not happen in future,” he said, adding that the entire state should not be shamed for a crime committed by a few people.

On reports about the prime accused Amar Jyoti Kalita hiding in Bhubaneshwar, Gogoi said wherever he may be, “I am confident he will be arrested soon”.

There have been reports of police tracing the calls made by Kalita to some of his family members to a PCO in Bhuba-neswar. Sources said the police have sent a team headed by a DIG to Bhubaneswar.

They have also announced a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh for information on Kalita’s whereabouts and Rs 50,000 for the other accused.

Gogoi said he has directed the CID to supervise the investigation of the case. A police source said the special investigation team (SIT) headed by superintendent of police (operations) Ranjan Bhuyan will now report to additional director-general of police (CID) Mukesh Sahay about the progress of the investigation.

Of the 14 accused in the case, six more persons were arrested today, taking the total number to 12. While Rup Kanta Kalita was apprehended from Mukalmua in Nalbari district this afternoon, Ghanshyam Malik, 25, was arrested after being was detained on Saturday, Debabrata Das was arrested from Goreswar in Kamrup district, Babu Barua from Tamulpur in Baksa district, Jitumoni Deka from Hatigaon area in Guwahati and Dipak Dey from Shillong.

Gogoi said there had been an increase in crime against women in the state and his government had requested the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to conduct a study to find the reasons behind it. “Based on the findings of the study, all necessary action will be taken,” he added.

Gogoi met the victim, who was accompanied by All India Mahila Congress secretary Poonam Rani Wangkhem, at his residence this evening and offered her Rs 50,000, shelter, security and help to set up her own business. The meeting lasted for 45 minutes.

Sona Barua, media in-charge of the Assam Mahila Congress, said, “The money will be transferred to her account tomorrow since she does not have one at present. She refused a job as she has studied only till Class X but she wants to start a beauty parlour. The chief minister has also decided to provide a policewoman for her security.”

The Kamrup (metro) administration today issued an order directing all bars to employ women security guards and to maintain a register where every customer will have to put in his/her name, address, entry and exit time and provide age proof.

In an emailed statement, the Paresh Barua faction of Ulfa condemned the incident and said it had embarrassed Assamese society.