A fourth person was arrested for reportedly stripping and molesting a girl in a busy area in Guwahati even as an insensitive remark by Assam's director general of police over the incident earned him a rebuke by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.
The arrested four were among the 16 persons who were identified in connection with the incident in front of a bar on the Guwahati-Shillong Road on Monday night, which led to a public outcry after a video of the assault by a television channel was uploaded on Youtube.
After his force was slammed for delayed action, Assam DGP Jayanta Narayan Chowdhury said the police is not like an "ATM machine" which can be present at the crime scene the moment one inserts a card in the machine.
Chidambaram said on Friday that no one should make light of an incident of molesting a woman or molesting a child and strongly condemned if any one tried to do so.
"If they have tried to make light of the incident I strongly condemn it. No one should make light of an incident of molesting a woman or molesting a child," he told reporters in Chandigarh. The minister said he would get in touch with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi over the incident.
The home minister was asked by a newsman to comment on Chowdhury's ATM machine remark and another remark by a senior police officer that the incident has been played up by the media in Delhi when molestation of girls from the North East in the national capital are brushed aside and suggesting that Delhi was a "rape capital".
"The remark is in poor taste. There is no such thing as rape capital. Every incident of molestation is condemnable," he added.
National Commission for Women chairperson Mamta Sharma also slammed the state police for the 'ATM machine remark' and condemned the delay in action.
When asked to comment on the controversy generated by his remark, Chowdhury said sometimes it was immediately not possible to initiate action but he was critical of passersby and those who took the video for not alerting the police.
As soon as the video showing the minor girl being molested by a mob in full public view went viral, a hoarding showing the pictures of some of the accused was put up with a caption that they have shamed Assamese society.
"One more person has been arrested and 12 others have been identified," Chowdhury told PTI.
"Thanks to the prompt media coverage we have got the video clip of the brawl and have identified 12 of them. We will take strong action against the guilty," the DGP said.
Narrating the sequence of events, Chowdhury said four girls and two boys, apparently known to each other, entered the bar on Monday night, where they subsequently had a brawl and were forced outside by the establishment's security.
"When the six came out on the streets, local people, taking advantage of the situation pushed and pulled one of the girls and attempted to strip and molest her," the DGP said.
"The police were alerted and they reached the scene immediately after the incident and rescued the girl," he said.
Asked about the safety of women in Guwahati, the DGP said, "This incident does not prove that there are predators lurking in the city."
"This is just an isolated incident when local people took advantage of the situation and indulged in the crime," the DGP said.
One of those arrested earlier was a contractual employee of the Assam Electronic Development Corporation Ltd, Amarjyoti Kalita, who had also acted in an Assamese serial.
The other two arrested were Dhanonjoy Basfor and Bulbul Das.
They were charged under Sec 341 (wrongful restraint), Sec 143 (unlawful assembly), Sec 294 (obscene act), Sec 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), Sec 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty) of the IPC following a written complaint filed by the girl's mother.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has termed the incident unfortunate and said it should not have been allowed to occur. He has also directed the district administration and police to monitor all bars, clubs, discos and hotels.