Pronab Mondal, TT, Aug. 15: A young woman’s freedom to work and walk without fear in her city was snatched on Independence Day eve by two drunk men who waylaid, slapped and punched her while a constable stood watching a few feet away.
The alleged assaulters, one of whom was arrested on Monday, had apparently targeted the woman because she was returning home from work “so late at night”.
The incident occurred on Bagmari Road, in the heart of Maniktala, around 10.45pm on Sunday, barely four months after goons had assaulted a student of Presidency University in Ranikuthi for wearing shorts and smoking.
“I was walking towards my home in Muraripukur like I do every day when three men on a motorcycle passed by and stopped a little ahead of me. Two of them blocked my way and demanded to know where I was coming from so late at night,” recounted the woman, in her early 20s.
“I ignored their question. When they kept asking me the same question over and over, I told them that I was a working woman and was returning home from my workplace. They refused to believe me and started hurling abuse,” she told Metro.
The woman stood her ground and the verbal assault quickly turned physical. “They pushed me and I protested, saying they had no right to ask me where I was coming from. They then slapped and punched me and I fell. But I refused to cower and was quickly back on my feet to note down the registration number of their motorcycle.”
Some residents of the neighbourhood stepped out of their homes on hearing the commotion but allegedly didn’t stand up for the woman. “They just watched me being attacked. I asked them why they were not protesting, at which some of them requested the men who had targeted me to leave the place. A few of the witnesses to my plight advised me to quietly go home,” said the woman, who braved the goons alone for 20-odd minutes.
On seeing her noting down the registration number of the motorcycle, one of the accused told the woman that they did not fear the cops. “We control Calcutta police. Do whatever you want to do,” she quoted the man as saying.
All this while, the constable in uniform who had seen the incident unfold didn’t budge from where he stood, the woman said.
She dialled the distress helpline 100 and was giving her location to an officer – a large housing complex called Rain Tree overlooks the spot – when the assaulters possibly decided they should leave. “Even when I was talking to the officer, the three of them were raining abuse on me. After I had described where I was, the officer assured me of prompt assistance.”
A group of youths returning from a football tournament arrived just after the three assaulters had left and offered to escort the woman to Maniktala police station.
“They took me and the constable to the police station, where I narrated my plight to an officer. He asked me to lodge my complaint in the general diary, but a senior officer came out his room and instructed his junior to treat my complaint as an FIR,” the woman said.
A medical examination at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital confirmed assault.
The constable’s failure to intervene in the assault doesn’t find mention in the FIR, though. “I wanted the constable’s role included in the FIR but the police declined to do so,” the woman said.
Based on the details provided by her, the police arrested a resident of the area named Bhola Shaw, 45, on charges of molestation (Section 354 of the IPC). He got bail on Tuesday after a day in police custody. Sources said the police did not oppose his bail.
One of Bhola’s alleged accomplices has been identified as Swapan Das, but he has yet to be arrested.
Debashmita Das, deputy commissioner of police (eastern suburban division), did not respond to multiple calls from Metro to ask whether the constable’s role in the incident would be investigated.
One of the youths who helped the woman said he and his friends saw the constable rooted to his spot. “There was this constable and some residents too, but nobody was helping her,” said the 20-something man, who did not want to be named.