Scientist in search of justice
|A STAFF REPORTER|
A police force whose sense of urgency apparently depends on who is lodging a complaint has spent three days — and counting — sitting on an assault and outrage-of-modesty charge by a retired scientist and his daughter against their landlord and local goons.
Aparesh Bhattacharya, a 60-year-old retired principal scientist with the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, was a disillusioned man on Tuesday. His 30-year-old daughter, who was assaulted and stripped, sported a black eye, swollen lips, injury marks on both arms and a bandaged cheek.
The assault occurred on Sunday at Baruipur, on the southern fringes, after members of a local club had turned up at the Bhattacharyas' door and demanded that they vacate the rented top floor of the Mallickpur house.
Father and daughter, a law student with a bachelor's degree in physics, had barely put up a semblance of resistance when the gang allegedly went berserk, hitting them repeatedly before stripping the 30-year-old and pushing her out of the house they had been planning to buy.
"I called the local police station for help, only to be told they didn't have manpower to spare. I helplessly watched the goons pounce on my daughter," recounted the scientist, wincing at the thought. An 84-year-old neighbour was the only one who dared protest.
Two cops arrived an hour and a half later, by which time the goons were gone. The Bhattacharyas were on the road, while landlord Gautam Pal and his wife Madhumita Ghosh Pal were inside the house. "To my utter shock, the cops whispered something to Pal before leaving with the parting words: "Goutamda, aaschhi (we will take your leave)," said Bhattacharya, who was hit on his hands with rods.
Sounds familiar? Yes, the police in Bengal are making a habit of rushing to the rescue of the aggressor, not the aggrieved. Barely three days before the Bhattacharyas' terror afternoon, a team from East Jadavpur police station had turned up at a New Garia cooperative housing estate to arrest Jadavpur University chemistry professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, ironically when he was the one who had just been beaten up.
Bhattacharya, who had spent a part of his working life in the US, was contemplating his options when a police van arrived. "One of the cops took my name, at which I introduced myself. He asked us to accompany him, saying my daughter would need to go for a medical check-up," he recalled.
Something told Bhattacharya that the case had turned on its head. He was right. The landlord's wife had lodged a counter complaint against the Bhattacharyas, alleging outrage of modesty, trespassing, negligent conduct with respect to animals, grievous hurt and theft. "My husband and I had asked them to vacate our house. But they were not allowing us in. The scientist assaulted me. He wanted to grab our house," said Madhumita, who also accused the Bhattacharyas of unleashing their five dogs on her.
The scientist said he had locked the pets — three Alsatians and two mongrels — in the bathroom to save them from being attacked when members of the local Bhai Bhai Sangha barged in.
Their faith in the police eroded, the Bhattacharyas went to Mamata Banerjee's 30B Harish Chatterjee Street residence on Sunday evening. Someone there directed father and daughter to Trinamul Bhavan, where they were asked to leave their names and address. "We did as told but no one called back. We didn't have the courage or will to approach the police after seeing how they were hobnobbing with Gautam Pal," the scientist said.
On Monday afternoon, they approached the superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas. "I asked them to lodge a complaint with the local police station and assured them that we would do the needful. But the woman (Bhattacharya's daughter) said she had fever and, therefore, could not go to the police station on Monday," SP Praveen Tripathi told Metro.
Bhattacharya's daughter lodged a complaint against the Pals with Baruipur police station on Tuesday, but nobody had been arrested till 11pm. "We are probing both complaints (tenant and landlord's)," a senior officer said.
Bhattacharya had been living in the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology's staff quarters near Rabindra Sarobar for a decade before renting the top floor of the Mallickpur house after his retirement last February.
He later decided to buy the entire house and his offer was accepted by Pal. The sale agreement was signed on February 10 and the scientist paid Rs 2 lakh as advance the next day.
"We were given possession of the house on February 19 and documents pertaining to the property on March 11. We found the deed and the building plan did not tally, so we made enquiries," Bhattacharya said.
On March 19, Pal sent a letter saying he was calling off the deal and would return the Rs 2 lakh. That was a day before the Bhattacharyas were to pay Rs 23 lakh. Pal then moved court, saying the Bhattacharyas had reneged on payments.
Bhattacharya's sister said her sibling had decided to shift to Baruipur for his pets. "My brother apparently made an immature decision. He should not have trusted these people," she said, holding her niece's hands in hers.