U.S. ayurvedic doctor decries ‘law and order breakdown’ in Varanasi after she fights-off ‘attackers’ on BHU campus
Ordeal: Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya claims she was attacked by five persons on April 22
In a shameful incident that’s sure to add to India’s disrepute globally in terms of women’s safety record, an acclaimed US-based Indian ayurveda doctor was allegedly molested by five men on April 22 on the campus of the renowned Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
But the Varanasi police seem to differ with the Kolkata-born Fulbright scholar on that thought. Not acknowledging that she was in clear and present danger, they refused to file even an FIR in the case.
The report was finally filed only on the ninth day of the incident, and that too after the intervention of senior police officers. Incidentally, Varanasi is the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“This is what happens in Modi’s raj. One year of his prime ministership is drawing to a close and women are still as unsafe as they were under the Congress rule. I met Varanasi’s Superintendent of Police through a friend on April 28 and told him of my tribulation, but even then the police filed an FIR only on May 1,” Dr Bhattacharya told Mail Today from New Jersey, US.
According to her, she was attacked by five persons around 7.45 pm on April 22 when she was taking a walk with a friend on the BHU campus around the agricultural farms near the IIT and material sciences department.
“It was not strictly a case of mugging because though they took away my cell phone, they left my laptop behind. The five men came on to me and tried to rape me. I have had formal self-defence training and therefore I could fight back. Though I was injured, they could not rape me and ultimately fled the spot,” Dr Bhattacharya said.
“The apathy of the system dawned upon me when the Lanka area’s police, instead of filing an FIR, told me to keep my mouth shut. I kept going to the police station, but it didn’t serve any purpose. After the SP finally intervened, I was subjected to a medical examination. To my horror, it was conducted by two male doctors and a woman police inspector. I somehow prepared myself for this agony too, reminding myself that it could be no worse than rape!” Dr Bhattacharya recalled.
The Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi where the crime allegedly took place
In an aside to this continuous suffering, she was also asked to read palms. “When the doctors discovered that I am a Brahmin and proficient in ayurveda, they forced me to read their palms and predict their future,” Dr Bhattacharya added.
Adding to her suffering and humiliation, the police inspector dragged Dr Bhattacharya to the crime spot and asked her to re-enact the crime.
“It was weird and eerie. He watched and listened to me as if we were going through the motions just because we were supposed to. A woman inspector even asked me for the motive behind my filing the case,” she added.
As a way out of such situations, Dr Bhattacharya offered: “The vice-chancellor of the university is surrounded by armed guards. Most of them can be spared and used to man the unguarded parts of the varsity, but we never question such redundant privileges.”
While she is trying to keep the incident behind her, Dr Bhattacharya blames Modi for his extravagant foreign focus rather than trying to first light a lamp in his own house.
“Modi must remember that he is not the leader of just a section of the rich and powerful in India. He represents all, not just corporates and industrial houses. Rather than roaming the world and trying to get others to invest in India, he must make an effort to invest himself in his own country. We Indians are more important than FDI,” she said.
Meanwhile, the police are trying to put the blame for the delay in filing of FIR at her door.
“We had filed a report under the relevant sections, including for molestation. The delay was not because of us…she was unwilling to give a statement. She gave it only after the SP persuaded her. We have put her phone under surveillance and are trying to arrest the culprits,” said Lanka police station SHO Ramesh Yadav.