Kolkata Police arrested an auto rickshaw driver in the early hours of Thursday, after a 48-year-old woman accused him of molesting her on Wednesday night. Speaking to The Indian Express, the victim said, “I had boarded an auto rickshaw from Usha to Garia. For almost four years, I have preferred the front seat of autos due to an injury and pain in my leg. Like always, I was sitting in the front. I felt uneasy initially, but thought the driver accidentally touched my private parts while driving. Later, I realised his actions were intentional. I shouted and he too started arguing. I made sure to get out of the auto the moment I saw police. I narrated everything to the officer, who asked me to lodge a formal complaint. The worst part was that after I lodged the complaint, several auto drivers reached the police station and kept shouting. They were putting pressure on me to take back my complaint. Finally, under police protection, I returned home at 12 am. I am still very scared; all the auto drivers are local. I don’t know if I will ever take an auto ride in the future – at least not in my area.”
Police sources confirmed that a complaint was lodged against the auto driver. “Yes, the lady submitted a complaint against Iman Ali Khan (52)for outraging the modesty of the complainant on 7th February at about 7.20 pm. A specific case under Section 354 (assault or criminal force against a woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the IPC has been registered and the driver has been arrested,” said a local police officer. Meanwhile, drivers of the Tollygunj-Garia Auto Union took their vehicles off the roads, protesting the arrest of the auto driver.
“If the allegations are true, then we are in support of the victim. But that we will leave to the law and police to decide. The woman should not feel unsafe and we assure her that she can continue travelling from these autos without any hesitation. However, the drivers of the route are feeling a little insecure post the incident. The driver who is accused is around 50 years old and had been driving on these routes for around 30 years. There has never been any complaint against him. The drivers decided to stand in support of him and hence kept their rickshaws off the roads. Drivers have now decided not to allow woman passengers on the front seat alongside the driver even if they want to, in order to avoid such situations,” Bitan Haldar, a member of the Tollygunj-Garia Auto Union, told The Indian Express.