A young Adivasi woman ran down a Guwahati street naked, stripped by ethnic rioters, while leering city youths clicked away with their cellphone cameras.
As television today brought to Assam homes one more scene of Saturday’s street horror — when hundreds of tribals were attacked over a 3.5km stretch of the city — police arrested the woman’s three tormentors.
“The three had pounced on her like a pack of dogs and started stripping her. All her pleas fell on deaf ears till they had stripped her naked. Only then did they let her go,” said a police officer quoting eyewitnesses to the mob retaliation to a violent Adivasi students’ march.
The woman sprinted away from a large group of jeering men and ran on in panic till somebody threw her a piece of clothing.
The sight left homemaker Ananya Baruah dumbfounded on her second-floor balcony at Beltola, the epicentre from where the rioting spilled over several localities.
“She was running like mad. Some people were clicking pictures with their cellphones. It was one of the worst crimes any civilised society could have committed. I felt so helpless just watching. The girl disappeared into one of the by-lanes.”
The victim was probably a participant in the armed Adivasi procession in demand of Scheduled Tribe status that had turned violent and damaged private and public property, including cars.
As the police began dispersing the tribals, angry local mobs chased down the stragglers among them. Adivasi men, women and children were dragged across streets and mercilessly beaten up with the police refusing to intervene. The violence left some 300 injured and a 12-year-old boy dead.
The ethnic conflict claimed a second life this morning. Santosh Kumar, 17, was dragged out of a vehicle on a highway for “defying” an Adivasi-enforced bandh that was yet to begin, and hacked to death.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi announced the arrests of the trio who had stripped the woman and offered the victim Rs 1 lakh in compensation. Prasenjit Chakravarty, Sandip Chakdar and Ratul Barman were nabbed on the basis of video footage and eyewitness accounts.
Ratul, a waiter at Mahalaxmi Hotel in Beltola, is barely 18. The main accused is Prasenjit, 28, owner of Dainty Fast Food restaurant in the same locality. Sandip, 20, owns a paan shop near the hotel where Ratul works.
The charges against them range from outraging a woman’s modesty to attempt to murder.
Gogoi announced a judicial probe into the violence by the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam as well as the mob backlash. The state government has announced a compensation of Rs 3 lakh for the families of the dead.