Guwahati: The atrocious incident of a teenaged girl being molested in full public view by a mob of around 20 men at a busy road in Guwahati has outraged the entire country with Home Minister P Chidambaram exhorting the state government to take action.
The National Commission for Women (NCW), meanwhile, has said that it will take strict action against the accused. Mamta Sharma, the Chairperson of the NCW, said, "We will take action. We have taken cognizance of the matter. I would like to request the government to take note of such issues. A committee will be leaving for Guwahati tomorrow."
The Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup District, Ashutosh Agnihotri, too said that strict action will be taken against the accused. He, however, admitted that the police could have acted faster. "The police could have been a little faster to reach the spot. I have asked the SP to inquire into the delay," he said.
The Assam Police has managed to identify only 11 of the accused and arrest only four of them, almost four days after the incident. The victim had gone to celebrate her friend's birthday at a city bar where a man passed an obscene remark at her. This led to an altercation in the pub whose management asked them to leave. Once outside, the man followed her and passersby joined him.
The entire incident was shot on camera by a News Live cameraperson and is now viral on the Internet. Upon being questioned on the ethics behind shooting a molestation incident live and airing it, the channel said they did it "in public interest".
Syed Zarir Hussain, the Managing Editor of the TV channel, said, "Had we stopped rolling the camera, these molesters would not have been arrested. What we did was in public interest. On the night this incident happened, we showed only the molesters. We took a call to show the incident the next day as we realised that the molesters would not have be arrested. Whatever we did, we did for public interest and it is because we showed the video that four people have been arrested."
"The civil rights group in Assam had been insensitive to the incident," he added.
He further said, "The police was informed the moment this incident happened. There were two camerapersons and two people cannot take on a mob. So do not blame the media.
"How can the cameraperson be blamed for the accused looking at the camera and smiling?" he asked. "The serious point is that not a single group has come out on the street to protest against the incident. The media launched the campaign..."
He went on to add, "There were lots of people shooting the incident on mobile phones. The TV camera was ours. We were at a strategic location and we reached there. The question of ethical and unethical comes later."
Meanwhile, politicians and activists alike have demanded action against the accused. Former National Commission for Women chairperson Girija Vyas said it was high time the Sexual Assault Bill was passed.
CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat said that Guwahati was an unsafe city for women.
Activist Nafeesa Ali said the case highlighted the indifference of the bystanders to such horrific incidents.
Jahnu Barua, a film director, said action against the harassers should have been prompt. "What the mob has done to the girl is shocking. This is not the way to react. I condemn the incident. There is a loss of character in the entire country. Such incidents are happening across the country and this is shameful. Such incidents raise questions on the development of character of people in the country."
The Assam DGP, Jayanta N Chaudhary, however, has promised action against the accused. He said, "The girl had gone to celebrate a friend's birthday... There (at the bar) they had a fight and the management asked them to leave as they were creating a ruckus over there... they came out and some hooligans saw her and tried to take advantage of her... She was assaulted but is not hospitalised... Whatever is there in the law books, we will do accordingly thanks to the coverage of media... They have been a great help."
Kamrup District Collector Ashutosh Agnihotri said, "We are planning to take action against the bar owners if they are not following the norms. The bars are supposed to be closed by 10 pm."
He added, "Guwahati is safe for women. This is an incident everyone condemns. We will look into the video being circulated on the Internet. It is extremely shameful that the people are smiling at the camera. The Investigation Officer must have questioned the cameraperson also. The victim will be provided security."
Crime rate against women second highest in Assam: NCRB
The National Crime Records Bureau's NCRB latest statistics revealed that Assam has become one of most vulnerable places in the country in terms of crime against woman.
- According to the latest NCRB figures, the rate of crime against women in Assam was the second highest in the country in 2011 with 36.6 per cent.
-Assam's rate represents a jump from the 33.5 in 2010.
-The state of Tripura, which topped the chart in the category, was only a marginal 0.1 per cent ahead last year.
-Tripura has reported the highest rate of crime against women at 37.0 during the year 2011 as compared to 18.9 crime rate at the national level
-The NCRB report further said, There were 2, 28, 650 incidents of crimes against women in the country out of which Assam registered 11, 503 incidents.
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