The headman of a tribal community in Birbhum district was among 13 men arrested in connection with the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman after a kangaroo court he convened ordered the assault as punishment for her relationship with a man of another community.
The incident, which took place on Monday in the district’s Subalpur village, has sparked fresh outrage across the State over sexual crimes against women. Last December, there were protests against the government after a gang-rape in North 24 Parganas district
Hours after the arrested men were remanded to judicial custody for 14 days, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on a tour of north Bengal, expressed displeasure with the police for not seeking custody of the accused and ordered the transfer of district superintendent C. Sudhakar.
Inspector General of Police (Western Range) Siddhinath Gupta, who visited the area later, said the police would make a fresh appeal for seeking custody of the accused.
According to the victim’s brother and the local public prosecutor, both of whom The Hindu spoke to, the sexual assault was committed on Monday.
Public prosecutor Feroze Kumar Pal said that as per the victim’s statement to the local Labhpur police, it was on the headman’s instructions that she was sexually assaulted. She told the police that the assault started at 5 p.m. “All the 13 arrested have been charged with rape on the basis of the complaint”, Mr. Pal said.
The kangaroo court announced its punishment after the victim was unable to pay the Rs.25,000 that had been imposed on her as a “fine” for her romance.
Earlier, both she and the man were tied to two sides of a tree. The man was able to pay up the amount demanded separately from him by the headman, and was set free.
The victim, who is being treated at a hospital, is said to be in stable condition.
The village remained tense through the day.