The 16-year-old girl, who died after being raped twice by a gang and then set ablaze, was pregnant, according to police who sent the foetus for forensic test to determine its age and parentage. The West Bengal government continued to come under attack from the opposition and civil society for the “shameful incident”.
Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra Thursday “strongly deplored” attempts to “play politics” over the girl’s body, and denied medical negligence in her treatment at a government hospital, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee smelt a conspiracy.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Airport Division) of Bidhannagar police commissionerate Nimbalkar Santosh Uttamrao said the girl – the daughter of a taxi driver from Bihar – was pregnant when she died.
“The doctor treating the girl told us she was pregnant at the time of her death. We have sent the foetus to the forensic science laboratory for determining its age and parentage,” he said.
Police have already slapped murder charges against two accused, now under custody, based on the girl’s dying declaration that the duo had set her ablaze.
Chief Secretary Mitra, fielded by the beleaguered state government to articulate its stand on the issue, refused to answer media queries and limited himself to reading a statement at the state secretariat.
“The government is fully with the bereaved family. However, at this point I wish to deplore… strongly deplore the tendency to play politics over a dead body,” Mitra said.
“There is no evidence of medical negligence. A six-member medical board was looking at the girl. She was in the trauma centre and isolation ward. Finally, she died of multiple organ failure due to extensive burns… around 65 to 70 percent burns.”
“The state government and police are totally cooperating with the family. We also provided assistance in her last rites… what they had asked of us,” said Mitra, in the wake of criticism of police who had allegedly taken away the girl’s body by force for cremation, but had to relent after the parents refused to hand over the death certificate.
The body was finally handed back to the family, who cremated her.
The chief minister hit back, and claimed a conspiracy has been hatched to stop the government from serving the people.
“Some people are indulging in conspiracy. When no other politics works, such conspiracies are hatched,” Banerjee said.
“We will continue to be with the people. We will bring development, peace. The better you work, the more intense will be the conspiracy, narrow politics,” she said.
In Patna, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar condemned the incident, and announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs.1 lakh for the girl’s family and deputed a top police official to meet her parents in Kolkata.
Bihar Police Director General (Special Branch) G.S. Gangwar called on the family, and listened to their tale.
“I shall give a report on my return. I shall also hand over a letter to the director general of police, Bengal, written by his Bihar counterpart,” Gangwar said.
The Left Front brought out rallies and processions in various areas of Kolkata and in the districts, condemning the incident and the “disgusting role” played by police. The Congress also hit the streets.
“The Mamata Banerjee government’s honeymoon is over. Now it is their turn to give answers. We will lay siege to the secretariat on Jan 8,” said Communist Party of India state secretariat member Gautam Deb.
Leader of Opposition and CPI-M politburo member Surjya Kanta Mishra criticised the chief secretary’s comments.
“What we heard is only His Master’s Voice. Irrespective of whether they are in the government or the opposition, political parties will do politics. Is it the chief secretary’s responsibility to do politics?”
Targeting Banerjee, who is also the state home minister, Mishra said: “The main responsibility is that of the person who polices the police.”
Former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly termed the incident as “horrible”, and demanded that the perpetrators be given “stringent punishment”, and anybody found reluctant to book the guilty should also be brought to justice.
A section of civil society members held a meeting at the Rabindra Sarobar compound, protesting the incident.
The teenager was gang-raped twice in October. She breathed her last Tuesday at the government-run R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital where she was admitted with severe burn injuries Dec 23.