In absence of 'victim', army abuzz about 'tease' case burial

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By SUJAN DUTTA AND KINSUK BASU in Calcutta
  • Published 7.03.07
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New Delhi/Calcutta, March 7: Bureaucrats in Bengal are urging the army authorities to bury the probe into the alleged New Year Eve attack on Park Street police station by soldiers in uniform after witnesses trashed the police version before a court of inquiry.

The Calcutta police case against the army personnel was built around the charge of “eve-teasing”, but army officers handling the investigation have not yet come upon the “Eve”.

According to accounts being circulated in army headquarters in Delhi, the bureaucrats are embarrassed that they bought the police version and are urging the army authorities “to let bygones be bygones”.

In Calcutta, police officers probing the case say things are not quite the way army headquarters might like to believe and that the woman’s unavailability does not negate the unruly behaviour of the officers and the jawans.

“It’s not about trading charges. The incident did happen and a case has been initiated against the army officials who went on the rampage,” says Gyanwant Singh, the city detective department chief who is overseeing the probe.

“We even have witnesses who have corroborated their part of the incident. It would be unfair to jump to any sweeping conclusions.”

According to the police, the armed jawans of the Salt Lake-stationed Madras Regiment stormed the police station after one of their officers, Major Chandra Pratap Singh, was detained for misbehaving with a woman at a five-star hotel. Another officer, identified as Captain Mahesh, was also detained.

The soldiers allegedly went berserk, beating up policemen, breaking transmission sets and telephone receivers. In the commotion, nine suspected criminals managed to run away from the lock-up.

But army sources say three civilian witnesses who were at the New Year’s Eve bash and appeared at the court of inquiry did not corroborate the police version. The army has filed FIRs against the police for harassing the officers in violation of the Army Act.

Army authorities do not want to speak of the inquiry on record till the formalities are over.

But accounts have been obtained by the officers’ colleagues in Calcutta and they are angry that their “brother officers” were mistreated.

The latest account has been circulated in army headquarters and in an email to the Retired Defence Officers Forum, New Delhi, the Ex-Servicemen Association, Dehra Dun, and to the Naval Foundation, Delhi Centre.

Copies of the email are available from within the army headquarters. The unidenti-fied emailer, who signed as “Setu Madhavan”, alleges that Calcutta police was delaying the investigation by refusing to depose before the court of inquiry. And it was only after a magisterial order that two policemen from Park St-reet police station deposed, more than a month after the incident.

Asked for an official version of the findings of the inquiry, army sources said: “We are not saying the officers have been exonerated. The inquiry report is delayed because the police have not been cooperative.”

The police top brass in Calcutta rubbished the charge. “There was a letter from army officers requesting our help and we did send our officers to depose. The question of not cooperating just doesn’t arise. We could then question why the army lodged an FIR a few days after the incident. We don’t want to go into all this,” said an officer.

A police officer said it is “not easy” for a woman to come out and speak up in public. “She did it while in the hotel and we have the statement of the hotel’s security guard to justify our point. It could be that she is caught in two minds.”