| The woman talks to women’s commission members in Patna. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh |
Patna, July 17: Jehanabad resident Sangeeta Devi was stripped and brutally assaulted in full public view early this morning over a suspected land dispute, but by the end of the day found herself in police custody for allegedly hatching the conspiracy to kidnap one of her tormentors whose body was recovered from a remote village in Patna district later in the day.
Sangeeta, along with her minor daughter Komal and a family acquaintance, Munna Sharma, is undergoing treatment at Patna Medical College and Hospital for multiple injuries.
She narrated her tale before a team of the state women’s commission, which called on her in the hospital. “What else can happen with a woman? I was dragged out from the house, stripped, kicked and beaten up till I fell unconscious. What is more embarrassing is that all this happened in the presence of some policemen, who acted as spectators rather than thwarting the attackers,” she told Anjum Ara, chairperson of the commission.
Sangeeta, an active worker of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, said her attackers vandalised the house, damaged valuables and set them on fire. “Even my daughter and Munna were not spared,” she told the visiting team, which recorded her statement. The chairperson was accompanied by Reena, a member of the commission.
Taking serious note of the incident, Ara directed Jehanabad superintendent of police Aditya Kumar to take stringent action against the perpetrators. “Take stern action against the culprits at the earliest and inform he office of the commission,” a letter sent to the Jehanabad SP said.
But the incident took a twist after the recovery of two bodies from Sigori in rural Patna. One of the deceased has been identified as Chunnu Sharma alias Om Prakash, a resident of Shaktibigha village in neighbouring Gaya district. Inspector-general of police (Patna zone) Kundan Krishnan said that since the body of one of the two persons missing since Wednesday has been recovered, Sangeeta and her acquaintance Munna have been taken into custody.
“Both Sangeeta and Munna, who had earlier fallen victim to mob fury, would be booked on charges of hatching the conspiracy of kidnapping and subsequent murder. Chunnu’s father Surendra Sharma had lodged a case of kidnapping of his son with the Town police station in Jehanabad yesterday and identified Sangeeta and Munna as suspects,” said Krishnan.
Expressing shock over the incident, chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi today ordered a probe. “A probe has already been ordered,” Manjhi told reporters in Patna.
The assault on the woman took place around 1.30am in the intervening night of July 16 and 17 when a group of people barged into the house of Sangeeta and forced her out. The attackers vandalised her house, stripped her and then kicked and punched her in front of her neighbours. They didn’t even spare Sangeeta’s 14-year-old daughter.
Sangeeta, in her late 40s, said she reached her Nijamuddinpur house from Patna after receiving a call from Chunnu Sharma, who wanted to see her on Wednesday evening. Chunnu, along with his accomplices visited her house in the evening and started beating her without any provocation. Chunnu and one Shakti Singh of Jehanabad was involved in the land deal.
Chunnu, a resident of Shaktibigha village under the jurisdiction of Alipur police station in neighbouring Gaya district, in the meantime, sent an SMS to his father apprehending threat to his life. Surendra Sharma, father of Chunnu, also called Om Prakash, rushed to Jehanabad with his associates and attacked her house. Surendra, accompanied by a police team and a 200-people odd, wanted to enter the house forcibly.
“Initially I protested their move and pelted them with stones. Apprehending trouble, I took shelter in her neighbour’s house, which was also attacked. The attackers forcibly dragged my daughter and me from my neighbour’s house, stripped me in full view of the public and assaulted me till I fell unconscious,” she told The Telegraph.
She further said that the attackers were pressuring her to help them in eliminating Munna Sharma, which she vehemently opposed. She, however, feigned ignorance about any dispute between Munna and the two attackers, Chunnu and Rakesh. She also refused to have received money from the two property dealers.
On the other hand, Surendra Sharma accused Sangeeta and Munna of conspiring the kidnapping of his son Chunnu. “He was carrying a sum of Rs 5 lakh with him,” he told the police in Jehanabad.
Defending the policemen, the IG said, “They didn’t have sufficient numbers to intervene. In spite of insufficient numbers, they attempted to stop the attackers and they first rescued the woman’s daughter, Komal, family acquaintance Munna and later the woman. The mob took advantage of the situation.” He, however, said that the video footage would be procured to ascertain the identity of the attackers and suitable action would follow.
The issue figured in the state Assembly proceedings. Condemning the incident, former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said, “It is extremely shameful that such an incident took place in front of police officials and they didn’t do anything to protect the woman.” He also demanded that the policemen should be suspended immediately.
Jehanabad MP Arun Kumar also criticised the incident and demanded strict action against those involved in it. JDU spokesman Rajiv Ranjan expressed shock over the barbaric incident and assured the government would ensure speedy justice to the victim.
The incident has once again brought the plight of the women to the fore. The state has witnessed a sharp rise in the incidents of crime against women. A random survey of the statistics of the crime in the state revealed that a woman was raped in every eight hours in the state. The incidents of kidnapping, murder and rape of women, especially of minors, have increased in the past year.