Suryatapa Mukherjee,

Correspondent (Asia: South)


BARASAT — Mamata Banerjee’s surprise visit to Barasat on June 17, 10 days after the gang-rape and murder of a college student, caused a furore as the West Bengal Chief Minister accused assembled demonstrators of being Communist Party of India (Marxist) cadres and left in a huff. Confronted by around a hundred women of Kamduni, Mamata lost her temper, shouting “Ei apni chup korun to akdom, beshi kotha bolben na… chup, chup… akdom kono rajneeti korbenna… CPI(M)-er rajneeti korche ekhane (You just shut up, don’t talk too much…quiet, quiet…don’t engage in politics at all…They are all engaging in politics on behalf of CPI(M).”

On June 7, a 20-year-old college student was abducted, raped and murdered by a group of youths in the village 40 km to the north of Kolkata on her way home. The rapists ripped her legs apart and strangled her to death before dumping her body in a pond.

After witnessing the protest, Mamata turned to Mukul Roy, the General Secretary of Trinamul, and said, “Ei jonnyo-i ami aste chai ni” (“This is the reason I didn’t want to come”) – indicating that the trip was not her idea.

“Those who have been arrested in connection with the incident (rape and murder) are CPI(M) supporters,” said Mamata.

The opposition and intellectuals condemned Mamata’s remarks. “Mamata Banerjee blaming CPI(M) for the Barasat rape is callous and disgusting. The blame game over the incident is completely preposterous,” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.

Theatre personality Koushik Sen said, “Even if the protestors belong to the CPI(M), don’t they have the right to protest?”

“Everyone in the area knows that Ansar Ali, the prime accused, is a Trinamul supporter, who is also very close to Asraf Ali, who is the husband of Sahiba Bibi, pradhan of the Trinamul-led panchayat,” said Sunita Mondal.

After visiting the victim’s family members, Mamata said, “What has happened is really sad and horrific. We promise stringent action against the culprits. We’ll submit charge-sheet within 7-8 days and the culprits will be punished within a month. We, on behalf of the government, will plea for death sentence.”

Mamata held the CPI(M) responsible for the lawlessness in Barasat.“These areas are totally unplanned. The CPI(M) had grabbed vast tracts of land and doled them out to just about everybody without bothering about the area’s development. There are no police stations in these areas and people are paying the price for the CPI(M)’s misrule.” Saying that she would not state the details of her meeting with the victim’s family, the chief minister mentioned that four new police stations would be opened in the area.

“We’ll try to develop this area in a planned manner. At the same time, we’ll ask the Border Security Force to step up vigil, since criminals from across the border commit rapes and murders and then escape,” Mamata added. However, the accused rapists are Indians, and not trespassing Bangladeshi immigrants, as she suggested.

Mamata had entered the house of the victim’s family at 1:52pm. She turned to step out at 1:58pm — spending six minutes inside. “She entered my house and enquired about my health but before I could say anything she left. What’s the use of her visit if the man who has lost his dear daughter in such a tragic manner, cannot state his grievances,” said the victim’s father, a mason.

“Instead of talking to the women, she was busy discussing with her own party followers. When we said, ‘Why don’t you talk to the women? Why don’t you listen to our grievances,’ she asked us to shut up,” another woman said.

In the two years of her governance, the CM has become infamous for her intolerance towards dissenting opinions, labelling those posing uncomfortable questions as CPI(M) or Maoist supporters.

The National Crime Records Bureau, in its recent report, said that Bengal recorded the highest number of crimes against women for the second year in a row in 2012. As many as 30,942 such incidents were reported last year.

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons (Biswarup Ganguly)