A 30-YEAR-OLD woman, mother of a two month old, was allegedly molested and beaten up at M Bar Kitchen — an upscale nightclub at Park Street in Kolkata — by four men in an inebriated condition in the wee hours of Sunday, police said on Monday. When the woman’s husband tried to intervene, he too was beaten up, police said, adding that the four men — who included the director of Kolkata-based Teloijan Tea Company Limited — were allegedly angry with the couple for “entering their reserved private space, which they had booked at the nightclub”.
In her complaint lodged at the Shakespeare Sarani police station on Sunday, the woman alleged: “We went to M Bar on Park Street…There was a reserved space where two friends were waiting. We went up to the meet our friends when Devvrat Poddar got enraged because we were in his ‘private’ reserved area. He was severely drunk and touched my breasts with both his hands and pushed me on the floor. Even after falling on the floor, he hit and me and when my husband came to save me, he hit my husband also. He yanked his neck chain, pulled his hair, threw his spectacles off his face and pushed him around.”
“There were other people involved in touching me inappropriately and pushing me, but I don’t know their names and didn’t see their faces,” she added.
The four have been booked under sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (unwelcome comment or sexual overtones), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC.
Devvrat Poddar is the director of Teloijan Tea Company Limited — a 95-year-old company with estates in Assam and Bengal. Police said a notice has been sent to Poddar, who is absconding. After the incident came to light, the 28-year-old had switched off his phone and deleted his social media profiles, said a senior officer. Despite repeated attempts, Poddar could not be contacted for comments.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the complainant said: “A couple of friends had called us to M Bar. We were chatting when these men came and started getting aggressive about why we were there. While some friends tried to calm them down, one pushed me and I fell. Two or three among them started to hit and molest me while I was lying on the ground. The M Bar staff promptly responded and formed a human chain around us. But these men were aggressive with the M Bar management members as well. They pulled my shoes off and threw them…”
Since she lodged a police complaint, the woman’s family maintained that they were being harassed to “retract the case”. “We approached the media because people need to know that this kind of behavior can’t go on. Since we have filed the complaint, we have been receiving phone calls and messages asking us to retract… members of our community are citing the family’s name and honour in society,” a relative said.
Police said they are in the process of identifying the other accused. A source said while one has been identified as the son of a jute mill owner, the others were Delhi-based businessmen. “We have sought CCTV footage from the nightclub and are identifying the accused — two of whom are clearly visible. We will investigate further and have also recorded the woman’s statement,” a senior police officer said.
Meanwhile, in a statement, M Bar Kitchen said: “In the incident that occurred at about 0130 hours of 2nd April (post midnight Saturday), a couple, which was invited to a private table to meet some friends on the table got into an altercation with some other individuals who were already a part of the same table. The altercation further broke out into a physical fight amongst the two parties leading to a physical assault on the modesty of the woman involved…”
“To begin with, we strongly condemn a physical assault of any sorts on any individual and adapt a complete no tolerance policy to the same… Further, when the modesty of a woman is assaulted, it is not only derogatory but completely unacceptable under any circumstances,” it added.
The statement went on to stress on the measures that the nightclub has taken to maintain security at the premises. “…Within 30 seconds of the argument, our security team, along with management, was on the spot to ensure that incident does not result in a drastic outcome with irrecoverable damages. The first reaction of any security team is to break the altercation and get the concerned individuals out of active service area so as to avoid other guests being a party due to any misunderstanding. The same was duly done and the fight was broken off within minutes with the victim given protection in no time…,” it said.