They lost their daughter in gruesome circumstances but on Thursday trauma revisited the parents of the 14-year-old girl who was allegedly gang-raped by Trinamul leader Samar Gayali’s son Sohail and his friends on April 4 and bled to death before daybreak on April 5.
The parents struggled to perform the shraddha ceremony or final rituals of the Class IX student on Thursday as several priests turned down their request to conduct the ritual citing other engagements.
Finally, help arrived from unusual quarters, as the CPM, a party that ideologically stays away from religious affairs, arranged a priest for the girl’s shraddha by afternoon.
Parents added that the “unusual response” of the priests they had contacted before the CPM stepped in was because of the environment of fear in the village ever since the incident became public.
The girl’s family said “political influence" exerted by some influential persons in the village kept away the elderly priest who had initially agreed to conduct the rituals. The priest “suddenly backed out" on Thursday morning, they said.
When The Telegraph met the priest Biswanath Chakraborty, 85, at his home, he said: “The family members told me that the girl had died of illness. But it was a lie. I later came to know about how the girl had died. I had promised to do the job but finally refused as there is uncertainty about the time and nature of death.”
Asked if there was any pressure on him to stay away, the elderly priest refuted the allegations.
The family got in touch with several other priests but each cited “one excuse or the other” to stay away.
However, after the CPM arranged a priest, Ashok Banerjee, the father was visibly relieved.
“I didn't expect to face such trouble performing the last rites. The priest had promised me but refused to turn up at the last moment. I guess he was threatened by people who tortured my daughter that led to her death.”
Indian Secular Front MLA Naushad Siddiqui, who had called on the girl’s family on Thursday and was present when the rituals was performed, paid the fees of Banerjee on behalf of the family.
Banerjee, a CPM activist, agreed there was an element of fear. “I was reluctant for various reasons. But it was a call of conscience that led me to do the job,” he added.
After the rituals ended, the inconsolable father of the girl said: “I am indebted to those who arranged the priest.”
Lawyer Sabyasachi Chatterjee, secretary of social organisation Save Democracy, said: “This incident of refusal by the priest proves how people in Bengal are living under threat with no liberty even to perform rituals.”
“I hope that CBI would help people get rid of such threats by booking the culprits," he added.
CBI probe begins
Late on Thursday afternoon, a CBI team comprising nine members headed by an SP and four experts of Central Forensic Laboratory visited the village to start a probe on directions of an order issued by Calcutta High Court order.
CBI sources said a deputy superintendent of police had been made the investigating officer of the case.
On Thursday, after obtaining a formal order from an ACJM court in Ranaghat the CBI team first visited the girl's residence. Another team visited prime accused Sohail Gayali's residence. The sleuths spoke to the girl's parents, particularly her mother, for a long time and collected evidence. They continued the probe amid a power cut using headlights of their vehicles.
At Sohail’s house, the CBI team broke open the door to enter the house and examined a blood-stained blanket. The team left the spot after about 40 minutes collecting evidence. Before they left, the sleuths spoke to a few neighbours of Sohail and his father Samar.
Late in the evening, the CBI (DIG) Akhilesh Singh visited the girl’s house and spoke to the girl’s family.
Before the CBI team arrived, a two-member team of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) led by Rupali Bandopadhyay visited the village and spoke to villager Anish Mondal and homemaker Poly Biswas, who had rescued the girl from the road on April 4 and took her home.