After a couple of weeks of the applause given by a celebrity like Amir Khan, in one of the episodes of “Satyameva Jayate”, cheering the people of the northeast- Assam, in particular, for not only not claiming dowries from brides, but in many cases, the grooms and their parents actually assisting the brides’ poor parents financially, Assam has been shamed by the most atrocious and barbaric attack on a young woman coming out of a pub about 9 pm, by a crazy mob just for sadistic pleasure. As seen from video footages telecast by television channels, the woman was mercilessly beaten up, dragged, jostled and groped by the attackers, and nobody even tried to save her from the outrageous attack and the molestations, as she was struggling to save herself from the marauders, lying flat on the public road in the most pitiable manner. It was also most appalling to watch a television cameraman taking video coverage of the gruesome scenes, with many of the onlookers taking photos/ videos from their mobile phones, while a large number of the goons were molesting her, in all possible ways. But, there was no one seen trying to save the poor girl, though the place of occurrence happens to be one of the busiest in the city, with hundreds of people moving about, on foot, let alone passing vehicles.
When the police came, and that too represented by a single policeman, he somehow rescued the helpless woman and put her on the back seat of the police car; but some of the attackers still continued to molest her, by pulling her hair in order to expose her face and grope her limbs, in front of television cameras of a local channel, whose reporter was also seen asking questions to the woman, such as her name, her father’s name, her place of residence, her age, where she was studying, what for she came to the bar and all sorts of questions, as if she had committed a heinous crime, for which she had been so attacked by an irate mob. The poor lone policeman, who, as per a later report was a S.I. of Bhongagarh Police Station, was probably shocked due to the violent attitude of the mob, for which he could not dare to properly defend the shocked woman. While one senior journalist passing by reportedly tried to save the girl, the television reporter did nothing of the sort and asked the cameraman to cover the attack, in all its ugliness. The television channel (News Live) made exclusive live telecast of the entire happening, which showed the attackers on the job, with their bloody faces shown shamelessly towards the camera, and also the onlookers, who did nothing to help the woman. It also reportedly uploaded the entire video coverage on the You Tube, which went viral on the internet across the globe, thereby shaming Assam and inviting world- wide protests and condemnation.
The Assam Chief Minister Torun Gogoi severely condemned the dastardly attack on the young woman, and expressed anguish over the incident, which had cast reflections on him too, as the Home Minister of the State. He assured quick justice to the victim, gave her a patient hearing and also declared financial help for her rehabilitation and also a secure house. She has already been provided with police security. The Chief Minister has also constituted a strong Task Force under the CID to investigate, arrest all the culprits involved and prosecute them, in the fast track. Mr. Gogoi has taken cognizance of all the allegations leveled by KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi against the concerned television channel, its journalist Gaurab Jyoti Neog (since arrested by police) for provoking the mob to attack the woman in different ways, including stripping her completely etc., and also the Chief Editor- Atanu Bhuyan and Executive Editor Mr. Zari for uploading / allowing to upload the raw video footages on to You Tube, which has caused great harm to the woman as well as to Assam and its premier city Guwahati in particular. Numerous Public organizations have condemned the attackers and onlookers, as well as the television channel for its role, apart from criticizing the police for inaction. The State Police Chief has also faced severe criticism for his irresponsible comment i.e., “the police cannot function like ATM”.
Even the media is not generally happy with the role of the electronic media- the journalist and camera persons, who could have certainly played a key role in preventing the attack and saving the victim, and reporting to the police immediately. There is a strong suspicion of the whole incident being a part of a conspiracy to destabilize Torun Gogoi’s position, on which the Chief Minister said to the media- “I am not sure. The incident is being probed into .But yes, there might have been some ulterior motive for which the video footage was uploaded on Youtube.” A leading Weekly, Sadin in its Friday Issue (20/7/2012) has published a detailed report on what it calls ‘make news’ and ‘break news’ syndrome of television channels, and with reference to the 9th July incident, has cast serious aspersions on the named local television channel. In this context, , the Management of News Live has timely disowned the public statements of its Chief Editor Atanu Bhuyan, about his and his junior Gaurab Jyoti Neog’s resigning from the post under alleged pressure to the Management by Mr. Torun Gogoi. The Management has also clarified that Bhuyan has also been removed from the Directorship of the company.
Mr. Torun Gogoi, has this time, shared the strong sentiments of the people of Assam about the adverse role of the national media, when he made the statement, “I am unhappy with the national media’s portrayal of incidents that take place in the Northeast. The national media tries to project the negative side of the region and this saddens me.” [The Sentinel, 18 July, 2012] The CM has also declared his decision to put the city under Police Commissionerate, for more effective crime control and maintenance of law and order, on which, we shall comment separately. It’s primarily due to the C. M.’s pressure put on the police to deliver the job, that 15 culprits were already nabbed and booked under the law, except the absconding main culprit- one Amar Jyoti Kalita, a ‘police officer’ on the celluloid, for whose arrest a cash award of Rs.1 lakh was also declared. This time, Mr. Gogoi has really called the shots, and he has shown to the whole world, what he could do as the Home Minister of the State, by taking on to his shoulders, the powers and responsibilities attachéd to the post, not just leaving it to be handled by his junior Minister (s). We welcome this new avatar of Mr. Torun Gogoi, which has been long overdue.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) stepped in promptly, by deputing an enquiry committee to the city, followed by the visit of its chairperson Mamta Sharma to Guwahati, who personally submitted the Commission’s Recommendations to the Chief Minister, based on the report of the fact- finding committee. It is sad that, the State Commission for Women simply remained passive and did nothing by way of an enquiry or providing comfort to the victim woman. The NCW’s recommendations, e.g. police patrolling, with women police personnel, to curb such incidents; special police pickets, along with women police at all pubs till 10.30 pm for the security and safety of women; issuance of instructions to police stations to take such distress calls immediately irrespective of jurisdiction of a police station; to take action against the onlookers of the 9th July incident; coverage of the outside periphery of all pubs by CCTVs,; a 24- hour women helpline and women cell in every police station; mandatory age- proof of customers by bar owners etc. merit urgent implementation.
Finally, the public at large has to play an important role in preventing such tragic happenings. It is in public interest alone, that, while such attacks on innocent persons, women in particular take place anywhere, the general public who happen to be around, must pick up courage and stop the attackers, and call the police immediately. Merely informing the police, and doing nothing to save the victim (s) could turn into similar or even more dangerous incidents, which must not be allowed to happen in a civilized world. The Government also must ensure that the nearly 100 number of CCTVs which were to be installed by a private party, but who had installed only five, must be installed and made operative, within a fixed time-frame, failing which the party should be black- listed, and the job completed by other agencies. The Government also must fill up all the vacancies in the City police, within the shortest possible time, which an active CM should be able to do, and simultaneously authorize filling up of all police vacancies in the State, within a year, by taking a Cabinet Decision.It should also ensure proper training of all police personnel posted at police stations, on a priority basis, for effective handling of distress calls. Similarly, availability of the Emergency Help-line 100 needs to be widely publicized and made effective. Police patrols also must be made more frequent and effective.