TV anchor, friend molested near Howrah station

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HOWRAH: A Mumbai-based TV anchor visiting Kolkata came face-to-face with the ugly side of the city on Monday night when she was molested near Howrah station as a crowd gathered around to “watch the fun”. Undeterred, she fought back and whacked the molester with her shoes, ripping off a part of his left ear.

The 32-year-old, who spent her childhood in Kolkata, told TOI that she would not let her city be hijacked by a bunch of sexual predators. She was shocked that the gawkers did not raise a finger to help her and, in fact, started shoving her and her 72-year-old father when she resisted the attacker. “I cannot imagine that Kolkata has become so heartless. All of us have to stand up to reclaim the city. Kolkata is ours,” she said.

The Howrah attack came just two days after a techie was molested on a train and had to jump off at Belur station to save herself. Last Sunday, a Frenchwoman was chased and molested by a bike gang in Jodhpur Park.

The anchor, who works for one of the biggest global music channels, and her father arrived from Mumbai on Monday morning to visit a relative. They spent the day with two of her friends — Subrata and a girl, both of whom are in the event management business — in New Town. On their way back, they decided to pick up food. Subrata parked his i10 near a hotel just 300 metres from Howrah station and went to place the order around 11.30pm.

Just then a drunk staggered towards their car, leaned in through the windows and tried to drag the women out. The anchor was in the back seat with her father and her friend sat in the front. Undaunted, both women got out and confronted the attacker, who was later identified as Ratan Kumar Sau, 36, a local fish trader. To their horror, a crowd gathered within seconds and started cheering Ratan on.

Emboldened, Ratan slapped the anchor’s friend so hard that she collapsed on the road. He then turned on the Mumbai woman — only to get punched in the face. The anchor took off her shoes and started hitting him on the head. Taken aback, Ratan asked for help from the crowd, who joined him in shoving the two women and the elderly Mumbaiker. She shoved them back.

Subrata heard the commotion and waded into melee. A fistfight broke out between him and five of Ratan’s pals. Though outnumbered and battered, Subrata asked his friends to drive away, saying he would hold off the mob. The Mumbai girl jumped into the driver’s seat and switched on the ignition but a dozen people blocked her way and started banging on the car and its now rolled-up windows.

Finally, 20 minutes into the ordeal, she saw two policemen “walking towards them”. Ratan and his aides ran for cover. Subrata drove all of them to Golabari police station. IC Basudeb Banerjee immediately ordered his men to round up the hooligans. They were still writing the FIR when the first suspects were brought in. Ratan was among them.

He was arrested and charged with molestation, assault and intimidation — all of them bailable. He walked free on bail on Tuesday. Howrah DC-headquarters Nishat Pervez said the main accused had been arrested and police were looking for his accomplices.

“It was a horrible experience but this is not how I want to remember Kolkata,” she said. “It’s shocking that even the gateway to Kolkata (Howrah station) is not safe. Not a single person came forward to save us from these goons. I was terrified. Something much worse could have happened.”

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