A year old case; Assam: Girl forced to strip, stand naked; role of media alleged: The Human Rescue Team

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Date: Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 3:18 PM
Subject: Re-consider or provide prosecution statement; Assam: Girl forced to strip, stand naked allegedly: The Human Rescue Team
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India Today IndiaNorth Story

Assam: Girl forced to strip, stand naked

Kaushik Deka  | Guwahati, August 27, 2011 | 17:43
An India Today investigation into the alleged incident of forcing a girl to strip and stand naked for four hours inside Morigaon Police Station in Assam has exposed how a group of journalists twisted facts and forcefully videographed the girl hiding inside the bathroom. The camerapersons and reporters of two local TV channels, DY 365 and Prime News, even prevented a woman constable from covering the girl with a bed sheet.

The incident occurred on August 17 when one Dibyajyoti Goswami, 42, of Morigaon, called beat constable Someswar Pator on his cellphone and complained about “some suspicious” activities going on at a house in Jyoti Nagar colony. Three rooms at the backyard of the house were rented out by a local resident Amiya Das to three students of Morigaon College. When constable Pator and Anup Saikia knocked at the main door of the rooms, a 25-year-old man, who later identified himself as Majibur Islam, opened the door. The two constables noticed a woman running naked towards the bathroom. They immediately called Morigaon Police Station to send women police, and came out of the house and waited at the gate.

Meanwhile, reporters from the two TV channels reached the spot and barged into the house and started recording the woman in nude. She was trying to hide in the bathroom which had a door without a hook.  According to police, local women gheraoed the house and demanded that the couple be handed over to them. When woman constable Krishna Saikia reached the spot and tried to cover the girl, first with a bedsheet, the camerapersons tried to stop her. “They wanted to click more photographs as if it was some rare animal. They asked me to wait till they were done. I forced them out of the house and took the girl to the police station in her college uniform,” Saikia says.

The victim, Sharifa Khatun (named changed) 22, says that the police did not strip her at the police station, as reported in the media. In a telephonic interview from an undisclosed location, she told India Today that it was actually mediapersons who got dangerously close to her in their bid to get the best possible photograph. They forced her to stay naked till women police rescued her.

Khatun is a BA third year student of Khagarijan College in Nagaon,30 km away from Morigaon. She had come to meet her friend Islam at Morigaon and he took her to that house, rented to one of his friends. She denied reports of marrying Islam on August 19, as claimed by him in a press conference on August22. Islam, who earlier worked with Aircel, also alleged that the police put agun on Khatun’s forhead and asked her to strip. When India Today contacted him, he refused to speak saying that he was under tremendous pressure from “three persons” to speak against the police.

Following media reports saying that police paraded the girl naked, Pator and Anup Saikia have been suspended and officer in-charge of Morigaon Police Station, Debajit Mahanta, has been transferred. On being askedwhy the constables were punished if they were not guilty, Morigaon SP Jeetmal Doleysaid that it was done to curb media aggression. “We have initiated an investigation into the incident and the guilty of violating the modesty of the woman will be punished,” Doley told India Today.

Local residents also corroborated the police version andexpressed deep anguish over two TV channels repeatedly showing the indecent video clips of Khatun and claiming that those were shot at the police station. They however, denied that local women gheraoed the house and tried to barge into the house. “Most of the women here are working and were away as the incident happened at 11 am. But we are happy that police took action against the couple, as they were polluting the social atmosphere,” said a lecturer in a junior private college at Morigaon. However, Krishna Saikia has a different story to tell: “Ask them if they were not there with scissors to chop off the girl’s hair?”

Eminent citizens have now raised their voice against the moral policing by media and local residents. “This is Talibanism. If two consenting adults were into a physical relation in their private space, it was nobody’s business. The police should first arrest the photographers who clicked nude photographs of the woman,” says Zubeen Garg, the biggest pop icon of Assam. “It shows to what level media, the so-called conscience-keeper of Assam can stoop. The society also needs to redefine morality,” says eminent writer Phanindra Kumar Devchoudhury.

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