People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 23, 2013





Protesting a Rape is a Crime in Mamata’s Wonderland


From Our Special Correspondent in Kolkata


HERE’S how Mamata Banerjee, the ‘firebrand’ chief minister of West Bengal, exposed herself. In a most bizarre manner she demonstrated to the whole world that she would not allow any questions, any protests in her supposed fiefdom.


It took ten days for the woman chief minister of the state to visit the family and village of the girl who was brutally raped and murdered at Kamduni, Barasat. Ever since the incident of rape happened, the people of the village have been demanding that the chief minister visit their village and redress their grievances. Barasat has emerged as a notorious place for criminals and rapists who have been harassing women of the area for a long period of time. Illegal liquor dens and misbehaviour, abuse and sexual harassment are flourishing in the area with impunity while the local administration is turning a blind eye. The latest incident of rape of a college student was the last straw in the camel’s back for the people of the area. It is in this context that the people of Kamduni expected that their grievances be heard by the chief minister herself.


Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hardly spent five minutes with the family of the girl and hurried out of the house. By then a large number of people had gathered, particularly women, who were raising slogans demanding punishment for the culprits and asking the CM to listen to their grievances. The spontaneous outpouring of emotions and anger of the people of that area however made the chief minister angry. When a woman asked the CM to speak to them she was shouted down and told to keep quiet by the CM herself. The CM also alleged that the woman was doing politics to which the lady responded that it was the CM who was doing politics. In the most shameless manner, the CM instead of trying to calm down the villagers, alleged that those who were protesting are CPI(M) activists. It needs to be noted that all but one panchayat seat in the area have been won ‘uncontested’ by the TMC in the ensuing panchayat elections.


And what happened after the five-minute safari of the queen was more chilling. Among many reports in the media, here is one from The Times of India:


"Shut up", West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had shouted at Kamduni women on Monday. Her party toughs ensured they did. When TOI visited the village on Tuesday, the roar of a hundred women the previous day had been replaced by a deadening stillness.


Branded "CPM supporters" and browbeaten by the CM, the women shut up and shut themselves indoors. On Monday, they had rushed to their Didi simply to seek safety in an area where sexual brutality is the order of the day. Mamata's outburst shocked them. Trinamool Congress' scare tactics silenced them.


Party toughs targeted Tumpa Koyal, who had gone eyeball to eyeball with Mamata on Monday, demanding that the Kamduni women be heard. Tumpa was a friend of the rape-murder victim and had studied with her till Class X. She had left her lunch on Monday and run after the CM, pleading to be heard. Mamata turned around and called her a CPM supporter.


On Tuesday, a rough-talking lungi-clad man, who identified himself as gram sabhapati Goutam Naskar, arrived at Tumpa's doorstep along with seven-eight musclemen and threatened her parents, demanding that she apologize publicly for "insulting our beloved chief minister".


"Mind it, this is for your own good," he cautioned.


Luckily, her husband had whisked her away in the dead of night. Naskar then demanded her mobile number. Her parents said they didn't have it. "You want me to believe that you don't have your daughter's contact number?" he thundered, warning everyone around that "party leaders" had started collecting "bio-data on all Kamduni women".


Tumpa's parents pleaded with folded hands to spare her, but Naskar shooed them away, saying Tumpa had to "stand in the middle of the village courtyard and confess she had committed a grave mistake".


"Do you know how easy it is to get hold of someone's mobile number," Naskar warned her parents as he walked off.


The village courtyard, which was bustling for the past few days, looked deserted. The lanes were all but empty. The local school couldn't even muster 30% attendance as the frightened villagers kept their kids indoors. Some women sitting at a tubewell scurried off when TOI tried to talk to them. One of them covered her face with her hands and said: "Don't ask us anything. We haven't seen anything, said anything or know anything. We don't even exist." The stink of fear was stifling.


It took an hour or so of knocking on doors before they opened up. "We ran after Didi just to tell our problems. We thought she would understand the village women's fear. Instead, she treated us like dogs," said Shankari Mondal. "She (Mamata Banerjee) has ruthlessly shattered our confidence. The message is clear to the culprits, they'll reclaim their territory in a few days. The whole village fears the worst."


Their fear is understandable, said Debu Mondal, a villager. "The women had lost all hope on the police and local leaders. Yesterday, they lost their last, very deep-rooted hope when Didi cursed them. Where will they go now?"


"We are scared. The whole village is tagged as 'CPM'. Tell me, do you see a single CPM flag anywhere? This time, only one Left Front candidate could file his nomination in the 12 seats. Trinamool has a clean sweep here. We apprehend her anger will give rise to an evil force. We were only trying to bring some peace and stability in this unfortunate village," said Poritosh Mondal, a farmer.

Immediately, Kamduni was brought under strong surveillance of both ruling party and state police. Trinamool Congress set up kind of a ‘check post’ and watched every movement. The village women were threatened time and again. Known miscreants were brought from outside to ‘control’ Kamduni residents.


Finally, the chief minister accused publicly that those who tried to talk to her on her visit were all CPI(M), Maoists and they had planned to kill her. “I know from their dress that that they were planning to murder me”, claimed she. It was not a ridiculous figment of imagination of a distorted mind, these utterances were cold blooded threat to the residents of Kamduni so that they keep really ‘shut up’. 



It has become a habit of the CM to blame everything on the CPI(M) and the Left whenever uncomfortable questions are asked to her. Moreover, she also has the habit of targeting individuals for raising questions about her government. The plight of Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra, Shiladitya Chowdhury and Tania Bharadwaj has not been forgotten by the people of the state. Such undemocratic behaviour does not befit the elected head of the state of West Bengal. The people of Kamduni and other places are living a life of constant terror, sexual harassment and the threat of rape. In such circumstances, the minimum that a head of the government must do is to guarantee them safety and security. However, the chief minister hardly believes in such civilised and democratic responses to the needs of the people.