Yielding to mounting pressure, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday shunted out Birbhum Superintendent of Police for failing to seek police remand for 13 accused in the gang-rape of a tribal woman that has sparked public outrage.
Ghosh rejected their bail petitions for the gang-rape of the 20-year-old woman ordered by a kangaroo court in Labhpur, about 200 km from Kolkata, as punishment for falling in love with a man from a different religion.
Top administration sources said that explanation was sought from the senior police officer. The sources said that case would be taken up afresh so that the police could seek police remand of the accused.
Banerjee, who also looks after Home portfolio, condemned the incident and directed that SP Darjeeling Kunal Agarwal would take over in Birbhum.
In Kolkata, West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan advocated corporal punishment for the culprits.
“We should have them (culprits) arrested and corporal punishment should be given to them,” Narayanan told reporters when asked about his reaction to the incident.
The woman’s family, in their complaint, said that she was gang-raped by 13 persons after a ‘salishi sabha’ or kangaroo court decided to punish her on January 21.
The victim said that among those who brutalised her were people old enough to be her father.
The victim and her paramour were caught, tied to a tree and assaulted after which they were asked to pay a fine of Rs 50,000.
The gang-rape took place after the girl said that she was unable to pay.
“The morol (village headman) ordered that I be ‘enjoyed’ by the men of the village. Following his orders, at least 13 people, including (some) members of a single family, continuously raped me. I lost count of how many times I was raped,” said the victim.
Minister for Women and Child Welfare Sashi Panja, who spoke to the victim over phone, said all medical tests were conducted.
In New Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari asked the state government to ensure “strictest punishment” to the culprits.
“In a democratic country, based upon the rule of law, no vigilantism can be permitted. West Bengal government must immediately arrest the accused and stringent punishment must be ensured,” he said.
West Bengal Women Commission Chairperson Sunanda Goswami said that the Commission would order a probe into the incident on Friday.
The district SP will be asked to probe the matter and submit a report to the commission within 10 days.
TMC general secretary Mukul Roy told a news agency, “Government is firm and is for strictest action against the culprits for committing this heinous crime. All the accused have been arrested and an inquiry is on.”
TMC MP Derek O’Brien tweeted, “Awoke to a terrible news of a young tribal girl gang-raped on Khap orders in Birbhum. 10 ‘beasts’ swiftly rounded up. Social malaise; must change.” State Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said it had become a social malaise and had to be discussed at the national level.
CPI(M) central committee member Mohammed Salim said “What has happened is barbaric, savage and uncivilised. Such incidents are unexpected in Bengal.”
He alleged that incidents of rape had increased in the state as the police were not taking proper steps when such cases were reported and the perpetrators went scot free.
State Congress President Pradip Bhattacharya said “We are going back to 16th century. This is unprecedented and unacceptable. The state government should take steps to control such incidents.”
The incident was condemned by intellectuals like poet Sankha Ghosh and painter Jogen Chowdhury.