A 25-year-old man, accused of raping his sister-in-law, a minor, and taking objectionable pictures of her, was arrested in Tamil Nadu on November 2.
The girl’s family is from Hingalganj in Basirhat sub-division, around 120km from the heart of Kolkata.
The accused — identified by police as Saiful Sardar, alias Saifulla Dhali — was brought to Bengal on a transit remand and produced at a Basirhat court in North 24-Parganas district on Friday. The court sent him to five days’ police custody.
The alleged offence took place in the first week of August 2020. The girl’s father lodged a complaint in December 2020.
According to the police, the complainant had been living in Tamil Nadu with his family — wife and three daughters. He and his wife worked in a brick kiln in Anthiyur in Erode district. Sardar worked in an adjacent kiln.
“He befriended the eldest daughter of the complainant and the two got married in 2016. In the first week of August last year, Sardar allegedly took the middle sister to a house where he raped her and took objectionable pictures,” said an officer of Hemnagar Coastal police station, where the complaint was lodged.
“The family, including the eldest daughter, left Tamil Nadu and came back to their home in Bengal after the alleged incident,” he added.
For the lack of enough opportunities in their home state, many people from Bengal work in such brick kilns in the southern state.
“The sector is not organised and the working conditions are poor. There is hardly any background check of the workers. But the daily pay is better than that in Bengal. The number of kilns are also much more there,” said a member of an NGO that works with migrant labourers from Bengal.
After coming back, the family was threatened by Sardar. The girl’s father lodged a police complaint after Sardar allegedly shared the pictures with a resident of the same village in North 24-Parganas who allegedly circulated them. The second man was arrested but came out on bail, the police said.
The main challenge for the police was to trace the accused in the absence of any documents. “Apart from an old passport-sized picture, we had nothing on this man,” said the investigating officer.
A police team from Hemnagar visited the brick kilns in Tamil Nadu’s Anthiyur in September this year but returned empty-handed, barring some phone numbers.
Back in Bengal, a call tracker system revealed a “Saiful Sardar” as the user of one of the phone numbers. The WhatsApp image attached to the number bore similarities with the passport-size picture. The alleged victim confirmed the picture was that of the accused.
On November 2, a police team reached Tamil Nadu again. Tracking the tower location and with help from the local police, Sardar was traced to another brick kiln in Vangal in Karur district, from where he was arrested.
The man has been charged with relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, 2012.
If convicted, the man can be sent to a life term, the police said.
“In case of sexual assault and similar cases like this, the jurisdiction is not an issue and a case can be filed anywhere. The accused had been on the run for a long time but was eventually nabbed with the help of Tamil Nadu police. We encourage more people to lodge formal complaints for crimes against women,” said Joby Thomas, the police superintendent of Basirhat.