A 16-year-old girl, who died after she was twice raped by a gang and set ablaze, was Wednesday cremated amid a raging political row over what protestors called police attempt at her "forcible cremation".
The girl was allegedly gang raped twice in October. She breathed her last Tuesday at a city hospital after she was admitted with severe burn injuries Dec 23.
Believed to have attempted suicide, the victim in her dying declaration named two of the rape accused of setting her on fire.
"In her dying declaration before a doctor and a police officer, the girl said (accused) Ratan Sil and Minta Sil set her on fire," Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Airport Division) Nimbalkar Santosh Uttamrao told IANS.
Police have now initiated murder charges against the accused, six of whom are behind bars.
Earlier Wednesday, a raging row was sparked between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Left Front and the Congress after the opposition parties alleged that city police took away the girl's body in the early hours of the day and tried to forcibly cremate it.
"Police took away the body and wanted to cremate it. They even baton charged those who protested the move. But they couldn't cremate the body as they did not have the death certificate," said Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) president Shyamal Chakrabarty.
The girl's father, a taxi driver hailing from Bihar, met Governor M.K. Narayanan during the day and expressed fears about his family's security after police and goons allegedly threatened them to leave the state.
"Police have threatened me and asked me to leave the state. If I don't, they will not allow me to drive cab here," the man said.
He also urged the governor to ensure death penalty for the six accused arrested so far for his daughter's rape.
In a letter to the governor, the father described how police forcibly took away his daughter's body for cremation and urged him for the personal security of his family, expressing retaliation by police.
Police, however, refuted the allegations.
Even as the opposition went on an overdrive criticising the police's alleged bid to forcibly cremate the body, the Trinamool hit out, saying it was a campaign by the opposition to malign the ruling party.
"The CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) is desperately trying to launch a malicious campaign against the government over the issue," party general secretary Mukul Roy said.
He asserted that the perpetrators of the crime were behind bars and already charge sheeted.
Meanwhile, the family, which had settled in Madhyamgram in North 24-Parganas district but was forced to relocate to a shanty near the city airport after being threatened and harassed following the arrest of the accused, has claimed that the girl was actually set on fire by others and she did not attempt suicide.
"My daughter told police that she was set on fire by others. They doused her in kerosene and then lit a match. They bolted the door from outside and went away," said her mother, who had gone out to the market on the fateful day.
She said the girl was unable to bear the constant taunts and threats for lodging a police complaint.
The parents' claims were later corroborated by police.
Attacking the "forcible cremation" bid by police, both the Congress and Left Front have planned statewide protests and condemnation rallies Thursday.
While Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPI-M questioned Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's silence over issue, state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya asked her to step down owning moral responsibility.
Bhattacharya also demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, alleging that the state administration was trying to suppress facts.
The National Commission for Women took cognizance of the case Wednesday and, alleging police inaction, sought a report from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the action taken by her government.
"We have taken cognizance of the case and will write to the chief minister seeking what action she has taken," NCW chief Mamta Sharma said.
The incident has evoked strong response from the civil society as hundreds of people, led by intellectuals and cultural icons, took to the streets here, deriding police inaction, and condemned rising crimes against women in the state.