Among the six accused who have been arrested for the gangrape of the 16-year-old in Madhyamgram,in North 24 Parganas,barely 25 kilometres from Kolkata,is an alleged juvenile,a school dropout who is reportedly 17 years and eight months.
On October 25,when the victim was reportedly raped the first time,the alleged juvenile returned home in the evening to celebrate his sisters birthday. I distinctly remember that day as it was my birthday. My brother returned home and we celebrated my birthday. I still cannot believe he did this, said the sister.
According to her,the accused dropped out of school when he was in Class VII and began working as a daily labourer. He lives with his mother and sister. My father does not live with us. My mother has a small tailoring unit. My brother used to help her with the finances while I am still studying, she said.
On October 26,Sanjib Talukdar (the prime accused) called my brother late at night and they both went out. He did not return after that, said the sister.
The victim was allegedly gangraped by the same men again on October 26,while she was on her way from the police station after filing a complaint. She named Talukdar,alias Chottu,26,who was known to her,as the prime accused. On December 23,she was allegedly set on fire by two other youths,and succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday.
Talukdar,a fish vendor,is known as a local goon who faced molestation charges earlier too. While his father,Gauranga Talukdar,is a local CPI(M) leader,Sanjib Talukdar is reported to have switched to the Trinamool Congress. He was seen at TMC rallies and led the bike brigades during the municipal elections in Madhyamgram. Police said there is a case of extortion against him too.
He befriended the girl. We did not see anything wrong in the friendship. But after he was arrested,we refused to visit him in jail, said his sister-in-law Sanchita Talukdar.
Palash Debnath,19,another accused,is a vegetable vendor. His father,Paritosh Debnath,has a small grocery store in Madhyamgram. I have three young daughters. How can I approve of this heinous crime? I never tried to protect my son from the police. I forced him to surrender, said Paritosh Debnath.
My son used to move around with Sanjib Talukdar and the other youths here. They used to work for the party at times,but they are not supporters of any political party, he added.
Locals said Palash Debnath,a high school dropout,was a close friend of Papai Roy,20,who has also been arrested. Roy is the nephew of a local TMC leader,Jayanta Roy,who is a close associate of Babloo Ghosh,the former TMC councillor of the area. Jayanta Roy is in charge of the TMC unit of Ward 13 in Madhyamgram municipality area.
Papai Roy lacks physical strength and he cannot rape anyone. We produced all the medical evidence to the police in this regard. But the police told us that he accompanied them in the crime,so he too is guilty, said his aunt.
Rajesh Mondal,20,another accused in the case,is a driver. We handed over our son to the police. We did not visit him in the jail. We have not hired a lawyer for him. We want him to be punished, said his mother,Mandirka Mondal.
The last accused,Antony,25,is reported to be an outsider who used to be often seen with Sanjib Talukdar. The victims father said Antony used to help Talukdar in his business.
Meanwhile,two others,Minta Shil and Ratan Shil,have been arrested for murder. The victim,in her dying statement,is reported to have said that the duo set her on fire. While Ratan Shil was her landlord in Airport area,Minta Shil is his cousin and hails from Madhyamgram.
A December 16 in Kolkata
In ways more than one,the alleged gangrape of the 16-year-old girl in Madhyamgram on October 25 is reminiscent of the December 16 incident in Delhi a year ago,which shook the nations conscience,sparked massive public outcry and forced Parliament to enact a new anti-rape law.
In both the cases,the victims were allegedly gangraped by six men. In both the cases,the accused are from the lower income group of the society. The youngest accused in the Delhi gangrape was a juvenile. The youngest in the Madhyamgram case is also,allegedly,a minor. He claims to be 17 years and eight months old.
In case of the December 16 gangrape,the victims family had shifted from their native village near Ballia in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi for a better life. Similarly,in Bengals case,the victims family had moved to Madhyamgram in North 24-Parganas district from their native village in Bihars Samastipur district .
Just like the Delhi gangrape case,the one in Bengal has evoked sharp reaction and spontaneous condemnation across the country.