Shocking rape and death, but parties play politics (West Bengal Newsletter)
Park Street, Kamduni, Madhyamgram - these places in West Bengal may be as different as chalk and cheese, but they do have a sordid link. All three are the setting for headline-grabbing rape cases, ineptly and insensitively handled by the government of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The Anglo-Indian woman, who was allegedly raped at gun point in a moving car she boarded on Park Street early 2012, is still awaiting justice with the case dragging on in a court of law. Mamata Banerjee had courted a controversy after she dubbed the incident as "cooked up" to malign her government.
When a zealous woman police officer Damayanti Sen proved Banerjee wrong by cracking the case and arresting most of the culprits, she was shunted out to an insignificant posting. The prime accused still continues to elude the police.
In picturesque Kamduni - close to Barasat of North 24 Parganas district - a second year college student was abducted, raped, and killed by a group of youths June 7, 2012, when she was returning home after appearing in an examination in Barasat. Days after the incident Banerjee visited the village, but lost her cool on facing a demonstration. Shouting at the protesters, she dubbed them agents of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
The girl's parents are still waiting for the culprits to be punished.
The latest gruesome incident happened at North 24 Parganas district's Madhaymgram, 22 km from here. A minor girl, whose father - a taxi driver - relocated to Kolkata from Bihar years back, was gangraped in October, 2012.
Shockingly - and a telling commentary on the state of affairs - the girl was gangraped for the second time when she was returning home after lodging a police complaint.
Faced with constant threats, the family shifted to a house close to the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, but here also the girl had to endure constant taunts from neighbours. On Dec 23, the girl was found at her home with 65 percent burns. She died Tuesday, Dec 31, at a state-run hospital in the city.
The police initially said the girl had set herself ablaze, but her father met the governor and disclosed her dying statement that she was set afire by two youths. It was only then the police changed their version and arrested the two alleged culprits.
While it remains a mystery why police tried to hush up her dying declaration, political circles feel the peacekeepers acted as per orders from the highest level of the administration which sought to prevent street protests on New Year day.
The irate family members, joined by the Left Front activists, decided to keep the body in a mortuary and conduct the last rites the day after on Jan 1. However, the city police stopped them midway, and took the body to a crematorium for the last rites.
The girl's father was whisked to a police station. He said: "I was first cajoled, then threatened and terrorised that if we don't hand over the death certificate, and do the last rites immediately, we will face dire consequences."
However, when the father stood firm, the police asked him to go home, where the couple spent a harrowing night. He alleged that local Trinamool Congress member laid siege on the residence, hurled stones and barged in asking them to hand over the body to the police and go back to Bihar.
The police too allegedly issued similar threats. "A police officer even told me that he would see how I plied my taxi in Kolkata," the father said.
On Jan 1, the police again took away the body and tried to cremate it, but failed as they could not get hold of the death certificate.
Finally, the family cremated the girl, after her body was kept for some time in the office of the CPI-M labour arm Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
The Marxists, having suffered drubbing in all recent elections in the state, tried to seize the issue, but their "politics over a dead body" was criticised by Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, and State Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra.
The family now fears for its safety. In a letter to the governor, the father has described his ordeal, and urged him to ensure security of his family, and punishment to the six accused so far arrested in the case.
The governor, on his part, assured him of all steps in this regard.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Human Rights Commission, and West Bengal Commission for Women said they had brought the issue to the notice of the state government, and had asked for measures to ensure her security. But nothing was done, it seems.
However, the chief minister smells a "conspiracy" in the entire chain of events to halt her government's "good work".
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )
(Posted on 04-01-2014)