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Mob attacks, burns rape suspect house

The police stand guard as the fire engulfs the house of Ramprabesh Sharma at Dehoband in Kushmandi

Raiganj: A mob of around 200 tribals on Friday attacked the house of a suspect in the alleged rape of a mentally challenged tribal woman and set it on fire in South Dinajpur's Kushmandi.

Although police rushed in and brought the situation under control, Ramprabesh Sharma's home was gutted and some adjoining houses partially damaged in the arson, said sources.

The woman, who used to stay alone, was found lying in a deserted area of her village, following which police arrested Ramprabesh Sharma, a resident of Dehaband in Kushmandi, and Andharu Burman from Itahar in neighbouring North Dinajpur district.

The incident had drawn condemnation from chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the victim at the Malda Medical College and Hospital during her trip to the town earlier this week. She had also rebuked police officials of South Dinajpur at an administrative meeting on Wednesday.

On Friday, the tribals of Kushmandi, already seething at the incident, stormed Sharma's house armed with bows and arrows, ransacked it and set it on fire. His family members fled.

"The attack was an outburst of discontentment simmering among tribals since the incident. The manner in which they went to Sharma's house, ransacked and torched it, indicates that the tribal people are not content with the state's intervention and the aid extended to the victim," said a local source.

A team of cops led by an additional superintendent of police reached the spot and dispersed the crowd on Friday. Two fire engines from nearby Gangarampur arrived but accused Sharma's house had been reduced to ashes by then.

Besides Sharma, the tribals demanded arrest of some others allegedly involved in the crime. "They should be awarded exemplary punishment. Ramprabesh Sharma and his family members will not be allowed to stay here," said a protester.

In Malda, sources at the hospital said the woman was still under treatment but recuperating slowly. "She is responding to the treatment but slowly. It will take some more time for her to recover completely," a source said.

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