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Death of girl pursued on train and raped after fall on tracks in Kerala

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By JOHN MARY
  • Published 8.02.11
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Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 7: A young supermarket assistant on her way home to pursue a marriage proposal died after falling off a running train while trying to escape a handicapped assailant who raped her near the tracks in north Kerala.

The death of 23-year-old Soumya, who had moved from a vacant ladies’ compartment to a general coach because she felt insecure there, has provoked outrage and protests in Kerala.

Youths associated with a wing of the ruling CPM vandalised a Railway Police Force (RPF) office after a party minister charged the utility with “utter disregard for passenger safety”.

Soumya, an assistant at a supermarket in Kochi, fell off from the general compartment of a Shornur passenger train on Tuesday around 9pm while trying to free herself from the assailant who was harassing her sexually, police said.

The assailant has been identified as 30-year-old Govindachamy whose left hand had been amputated and who hails from Coimbatore in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Charged with attempt to murder and eventually murder (the girl died yesterday in hospital), Govindachamy is in custody now. The police suspect he lost the hand while taking part in a crime in Mumbai.

Soumya was attacked when the train was five minutes short of the main Shornur junction and had just left the preceding station. Soumya was going home in connection with her marriage proposal.

The girl felt insecure, as she was the lone passenger in the ladies’ coach in which she was travelling, at Vallorkara station where the train halted for 20 minutes. She shifted to a general coach, little knowing that the assailant was on her trail. The compartment had only a few passengers in one corner as the train was approaching its last station.

Ladies’ coaches on long-distance trains had shifted to the middle months ago. But in passenger trains, which cover short distances, ladies’ compartments continue to be at the rear, near the guard’s cabin.

“I’d seen someone following the girl to the general coach. But before I could figure out what had happened, I saw two people falling off the train. I pleaded with co-passengers, seated at a distance, for help but they did not want to be bothered,” said Tomy, a passenger who still rues he could not pull the chain and halt the train.

Tomy was standing at the door in the nearby coach. He alerted the officials at Shornur junction, leading to the discovery of the girl near the tracks at a distance.

According to the police, the assailant jumped off the slow-moving train, carried the victim on his shoulder to a deserted spot and raped her. The first information report filed by the police cited nail and bite marks on the accused, indicating the victim’s struggle to free herself.

The assailant, who has been a regular on trains in the sector, has claimed that he had tried to snatch her purse and not intended to abuse her sexually.

The railway divisional manager in Thiruvananthapuram, Rajeev Dev Sharma, said: “There has been some lapse on the part of the railway guard. We will ensure it is not repeated and asked the headquarters to enhance the force. But the security and safety of passengers inside the coaches are the responsibility of the state police.”

Soumya, who hailed from a poor family, leaves behind her mother and younger brother, for whom she had given up her studies and started working.

She was cremated today on the banks of the celebrated river, Bharatapuzha.

CPM leader and works minister M. Vijayakumar, who is in charge of pursuing railway projects for the state, said if the officials on the train and at the railway station had been alert, they would have been aware of the mishap and taken the victim to hospital in time.

“The railways are solely responsible for the incident, caused by inadequate security arrangements. This is sheer callousness,” Vijayakumar said.

Youths belonging to the CPM-affiliated Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) broke the glass panes of the office of the RPF at Shornur yesterday evening. They charged railway officials with “slow response” while the victim battled for her life at the Government Medical College Hospital in Thrissur.