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Featured Image: A scene of the rampage at Raiganj on Friday. 

By A Newsman

Siliguri, 14 July: RAIGANJ, the headquarters of North Dinajpur district, witnessed massive violence this afternoon after thousands of Adivasis turned violent in protest against the sexual harassment of four of their community girls last Sunday (9 July).

Armed with bows and arrows, the Adivasis burned down an office of Trinamool’s trade union INTTUC at Raiganj Municipal Bus Stand, vandalised a host of shops right from Siliguri More to Vidrohi More in the town, and torched several motorbikes and bicycles belonging to common people.

The situation turned so volatile that the administration was forced to press in additional police forces, including a women police to contain the female Adivasi agitators.

The Raiganj Merchants Association has called for an indefinite trade strike in the town in protest against the vandalism and demanding compensation from the state government for the losses suffered by them. According to them, property worth several lakhs of rupees have been vandalised / burned by the Adivasi agitators.

On 9 July, BJP had called for a general strike in North Dinajpur against the killing of a party worker at Chopra in the district allegedly by Trinamool-backed goons. On that day, an Adivasi girl, who is a teacher at a missionary school at Goalpokhar was returning to her home at Itahar via Raiganj. To guide her home, her elder sister came over to Raiganj.

By the time they met at Raiganj Municipal Bus Stand, there was no bus available due to BJP’s strike. They found two Adivasi teenage girls also waiting at the bus stand for transport. It was then that some six men, almost all drunk, surfaced and forced the four Adivasi girls to a first floor room of the bus stand.

According to the girl, who teaches at missionary school, the men snatched their mobile phones and kept them cooped up there for about three hours from 2 pm. During this period, the men touched the girls inappropriately all over their body. On being pleaded to let them go, the men demanded ransom from them.

Taking cue from this, the teacher girl asked for her mobile phone on the excuse of telling her family to come with money. It was then that she dialled the gram panchayat head of her village and narrated about the ordeal in Adivasi language that the tormentors could not understand.

The GP head in turn alerted police. The cops came within 10-15 minutes and managed to rescue the teacher and her elder sister. But by then, the two miscreants had fled the spot along with the two other girls. They were rescued by police from Malda district three days later and police also arrested three men involved in the crime.

In protest against the sexual harassment of their girls, thousands of Adivasis from the outskirts of Raiganj and other areas of North Dinjapur district took out a pre-announced protest rally from Siliguri More early in the afternoon. They were all armed with bows and arrows and other traditional weapons.

As the rally marched towards the bus stand, a section of the participants suddenly turned violent and went on vandalising shops. Scared by this, traders shut their shutters and ran for cover.

The Adivasi mob subsequently torched several motorcycles, bicycles, and the INNTUC office at the bus stand as they believed that the men who had harassed the girls have connection with the Trinamool trade union.

Following the vandalism that ran for over an hour, additional police force arrived and managed to disperse the mob. Soon after this, in protest against the rampage, traders of Raiganj blocked the Siliguri Road and called for an indefinite trade strike in the town over alleged police inaction.