April 22, Kolkata: The family of 14-year-old rape victim, who died on April 5 in Hanskhali in Nadia district of West Bengal, has been allowed to seek protection from the state government by Calcutta High Court.


The bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj on Wednesday said that the family can seek protection under the Witness Protection Scheme 2018 in its ruling on a petition last week. The authorities will provide them security till a decision is reached on their request.


Earlier, the bench has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the crime on April 12.


“Having regard to the nature of allegation which have been made in the application it is necessary to extend protection to the members of the family as also witnesses of the incident. Hence, we permit the filing of the witness protection application before the competent authority as specified in Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 and on receipt of such application the competent authority is directed to take a decision and pass appropriate order for witness protection, proportionate to the threat perception, in accordance with the Scheme, without any unnecessary delay,” said Wednesday’s court order.


Further, the order stated, "Till the said application is decided, the concerned authority will extend full protection to the witnesses and family members of the victim and will also ensure suitable psychiatric/ psychological treatment to them to come out of trauma.”


It might be recalled that the local Trinamool Congress (TMC) panchayat member Samarendra Gayali’s son, Brajagopal, has been arrested along with his friends, Prabhakar Poddar and Ranjit Mullick in this case. The alleged gang rape of the class IX student took place on the night of April 4 at the TMC leader’s home.


The victim was allegedly invited by Brajagopal to his birthday party. She died the next morning, allegedly due to excessive bleeding.


The victim’s parents reportedly told the police that she was forced to drink alcohol before being raped. Her father also alleged that Brajagopal forcefully cremated the body and threatened to kill him if he informed the police.


The victim was cremated in a village crematorium without any death certificate and post mortem.


The CBI team has visited the local crematorium at least thrice to collect samples from the site where the body was cremated on April 5.


“Brajagopal Gayali held a gun at my chest and took away my daughter’s body to cremate her within an hour of her death. They did not even let me leave the house,” the victim’s father told the media last week.


Brajagopal was arrested on April 10 by the Nadia district police. The second accused Poddar was arrested on April 12, hours before the high court ordered the CBI probe. Lastly, the third suspect Mullick was arrested by the CBI arrested Mullick, last week.


A fact-finding team formed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president J P Nadda visited Hanskhali and submitted its report on Wednesday. It suggested that the victim might have been burnt alive since no doctor had examined her or declared her dead.


The allegations by the young girl’s family triggered a furore, particularly after chief minister Mamata Banerjee suggested that the victim and the principal accused were having an affair and it was public knowledge in the village.


On April 11, Banerjee targeted the media for highlighting the arrest of the TMC panchayat leader’s son.


“I talked to the police. Even police do not know till now how she died. I asked the police whether they think this was rape? Or, was she pregnant? Or, was it a love affair?” she said at a government event in Kolkata.


However, the victim’s parents – whose confidential statements were recorded by a magistrate at the Nadia district court on April 11 - dismissed the chief minister’s statements and said their child was not pregnant.


Life News views:


After the Hathras case, in September 2020, where the police and government authorities of Uttar Pradesh allegedly cremated the victim without the family's consent, it to have become a trend in the country to cremate the bodies of the victim apparently to wipe away all traces of any evidence.


This is such a dangerous trend which has been started. As it is rape victims are often denied justice due to rapes not being reported, rape complaints not registered, technical oversights, etc. Also, the conviction rate in rape cases is already low and then this added trend to wipe out evidence will surely work against the victim's efforts to get justice.


This has to stop. No person should be cremated without family consent.