NEW DELHI: ON January 2, several hundred people from women’s organisations, trade union organisations and student organisations demonstrated outside the Banga Bhawan in New Delhi, in order to protest against the callous and criminal attitude of the West Bengal government towards victims of sexual assault and specifically the manner in which the case of the recent 16-year old gang-rape victim was dealt with, resulting in her tragic death due to burn injuries on December 31, 2013. That the government of the Trinamul Congress (TMC), headed by a woman, makes a mockery of a crime such as rape speaks volumes about how they seek to politicise each issue in order to brush aside all opposition to their rule in an autocratic manner.
Speaker after speaker denounced the incident and demanded speedy trial in this case and steps to curb violence against women inBengal which was relatively a safer place for women before the advent of TMC rule in 2011. Brinda Karat, patron of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said that this was not only about violence but about the attitude of TMC government towards women and violence. CITU general secretary Tapan Sen denounced the criminalisation of politics by TMC. Jagmati Sangwan, general secretary of the AIDWA, said that the people of Bengal would no longer tolerate the nexus between TMC and criminals. Jagmati also said that AIDWA would observe January 3 as ‘Akrosh Diwas’ across the country.
The speakers put forward the following demands:
1) Impartial inquiry into the case,
2) Speedy and time-bound trial in the case,
3) Punishment to the policemen who were hand-in-glove with the criminals, and
4) Safety and support to the victim’s family.
The participating organisations included, among others, the AIDWA, CITU, SFI, NFIW and Swastika Mahila Samiti.
Next day, on Akrosh Diwas on January 3, these organisations and sent an open letter to the West Bengal chief minister through the resident commissioner in Delhi. The text of the Open Letter follows.
CHIEF MINISTER’S RESPONSIBILITY
We the undersigned express our deep outrage and shock at the horrendous double gang rape and murder of the 16 years old student in Madhyamgram, in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, and the subsequent events following her death due to burns she sustained. We are extremely disturbed that as chief minister you have not only maintained a deafening silence on the case but as home minister, the police directly under your control have acted in a manner which not only further victimised the rape victim and her family but eventually led to her murder.
We strongly believe that if your government had acted against the criminals after she was subjected to gang rape on October 24 the subsequent horrific events could have been prevented and the young woman’s life could have been saved.
The father of the girl in this case is a taxi driver from Bihar who had brought his family to Kolkata a few months back precisely because they had thought that the daughter would get better education in Kolkata. She was gang raped the first time on October 24, 2013, by a group of miscreants, some of whom are known to be close to the ruling party in the state. After she came home having lodged a complaint at the local thana, she was abducted and raped once again by the same culprits as punishment for having dared to voice her complaint.
But even then the police did not act. When leaders of women’s organisations and other concerned citizens raised their voices in protest and went to meet the victim, they were driven out by armed hooligans who were surrounding the house.
Madam, how do such criminals have the run of the place where they have the audacity to repeat their horrendous crime and then attack protesters? Is it because they have the political patronage of the ruling party?
Pressurised by public outrage, the police then arrested six of the accused persons and arranged for vigilance at the girl’s residence to protect her and her family. But very soon, this protection was withdrawn and the family fled from Madhyamgram to a rented room near Dumdum Airport to escape the constant threats they were facing.
Why was the police protection withdrawn? On whose orders? Why did the police not take action against those making threats?
On December 23, some associates of the culprits discovered even this meagre shelter and, according to the statement of the victim to the police, stormed into the room in the absence of the parents, abused and threatened the girl and set fire on her causing 90 percent burns. It is shocking that initially the police tried to cover up the case by saying that it was the outcome of a quarrel between landlord and tenant. Later two persons named in the FIR were eventually arrested and remanded to jail custody. The girl was taken to R G Kar Hospital where there is no burn unit and in spite of agitations by organisations to shift her to the burn unit at SSKM Hospital, the superintendent refused; she was only shifted to the ICU later. After fighting for her life for eight days, the girl died on January 31, without receiving even a single gesture of sympathy or concern from the government.
As you are directly holding the health ministry, could not you or on your direction any senior government official have intervened to ensure that the victim was not denied the specialised medical care she required? This could have saved her life.
It is outrageous and unprecedented that after her death, the police who had refused to provide security to the girl while she was living, suddenly became pro-active after her death forcibly took her body, without the consent of her parents, to the cremation ground and tried to cremate her by putting pressure on her father to produce the death certificate. The father however refused and on the morning of January 1, 2014, they had to hand over the body to the family who were then able to perform the last rites. Such brutal behaviour on the part of the police and the administration raises doubts as to whether the family of the victim would be able to get justice at all.
Under whose instructions did the police act in this barbarous way?
A year ago, the country was convulsed with anger and outrage after the brutal gang rape in Delhi and death of the brave young woman. The country pledged to make India safe for women, to reform the law and judicial processes, to ensure swift justice and punishment to the criminals and to also hold governments and officials accountable for any connivance in subverting the law.
Regretfully, we find that in West Bengal the official approach of your government to almost all the cases of sexual assault which include many of your own statements berating the victims, have brought despair to victims of sexual assault and those seeking justice. We therefore call upon you to take immediate steps to restore the rule of law against criminals by the following steps:
We demand that the West Bengal government hand over the investigation into the case to an impartial agency which should be court monitored.
All the culprits be arrested without delay and brought to justice speedily.
The police personnel responsible for removing the protection cover as well as those who tried to forcible takeover the girl’s body should be proceeded against without delay.
Immediate enquiry must be made into the charges of negligence against the hospital and the department of health, so that those who are guilty in this matter may be exposed.
Protection must be provided for the family of the girl.
The letter was signed by many prominent persons such as Professor C P Chandrasekhar, Professor Jayati Ghosh, Professor Archana Prasad, Professor Pravin Jha of JNU, renowned historian Professor Prem Chaudhury, DUTA president Nandita Narain, DU executive committee member Abha Dev Habib, Professor Sonya Gupta and Professor Simmi Malhotra (Jamia Millia Islamia), Professor Dinesh Abrol (CSSP), A N Damodaran (president, Jan Sanskriti), Professor Vandana Prasad (PHRN), AIDWA president Professor Malini Bhattacharya, Aruna Roy (NFIW), Jyotsna Chatterjee (JWP), Jai Bhagwan, (AICCMDMW), Rajiv Kunwar (secretary, Democratic Teachers Front, DU), Ranjana Nirula and A R Sindhu (AICCWW), Amitav Guha (FMRAI), Dr Nalini Taneja and Professor Amar Farooqui (DU), Leila Passah (YWCA), Kamla Bhasin (One Billion Rising), Kusum Sehgal (Swastika Mahila Samiti), Annie Raja (NFIW), N S Goswami (retired professor, DU), Sunand Singh (CEC of SFI), Puran Chand (general secretary, DYFI Delhi state unit), Smita Gupta of ISWSD, Dr Arathi (Council for Social Development) and renowned economist Professor Utsa Patnaik, among others.
DELEGATION MEETS NCW
ON January 7, a joint delegation of women’s organisations along with the family members of the 16 years old girl who was gang raped and murdered in Madhyamgram, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, met the chairperson of National Commission for Women (NCW) in the national capital, New Delhi.
A statement of the family members was registered with the commission and the chairperson responded to the compliant positively. She assured immediate intervention in the matter for the following:
a) Provide support to the family and take steps for relief and rehabilitation both short and long term.
b) Stiff action against all perpetrators would be sought.
c) A delegation of the NCW would visit West Bengal along with women’s organisations to take cognisance of the situation there.
d) The NCW will do all that’s possible within its powers to ensure that justice is done.
Protest Actions Continue
BIHAR: The heart wrenching incident of twice raped girl, who was later on burnt to death on December 31, 2013 in Madhyamgram area near Kolkata, evoked spontaneous protest all across Bihar, cutting across political affiliations. The ghastly incident which consumed the life of a 16 years old girl from Bihar and the behaviour of the police and the West Bengal government has invited all round condemnation, and people from all walks of life joined together to raise their voice in support of the family member of the victim who are going from pillar to post to get justice for their loving daughter.
The CPI(M) took the lead in Bihar and brought out a protest demonstration in Patna on January 2. Member of the CITU, AIDWA, democratic cultural organisations and common people participated in the protest march and demanded full security to the victim’s family member who are being threatened by TMC goons of the area, aided and abetted by the police at the instance of the political bosses, under the overall guidance of Ms Mamata Banerjee.
The protestors also demanded exemplary punishment for the culprits and the guilty policemen, and full financial and emotional rehabilitation of the victim’s parents.
The CPI(M) also gave a call to organise protest all over Bihar on January 3. Till the filing of this report, protests had been organised in 21 districts of Bihar. Reports from the rest of the districts are awaited.
Samastipur, from where the girl hails, witnessed widespread protest organised by the CPI(M), mass organisations and common people. Effigies of Ms Mamata Banerjee were burnt at several places --- right from the district headquarter to the remotest corner of Samastipur. A train coming from West Bengal was stopped for hours together. Even villages in the remote areas of Samastipur erupted with anguish and sense of revulsion against the West Bengal government. Their anger knew no bounds as they heard about the inhuman treatment meted out to the grieving father of the victim who was ordered by the SP himself to leave Bengal and threatened by the TMC goons to be killed.
In Darbhanga district, effigies of Ms Banerjee were burnt at eight places. Thousands of people participated
Besides the Left parties, JD(U), RJD, LJP and other political formations also condemned this ghastly incident and demanded stringent punishment for the culprits and the policemen.
Pleaders and advocates of Patna High Court brought out a protest march and demanded justice to the victim’s family.
The AIPWA, AAP, civil society organisations, AISF and AISA also brought out protest and candle marches, and condemned the West Bengal government for its total failure in providing safety to the traumatised girl who was twice raped before she was burnt to death with the connivance of the local police and the TMC bosses. (Arun Kumar Mishra)
JHARKHAND: Protesting against the gruesome gang rape and murder of a teenager in Kolkata, members of the Ranchi unit of AIDWA organised a protest march on January 5, at Albert Ekka Chowk, the main thoroughfare in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand.
The protestors said this heinous incident is a landmark of the present situation prevailing in West Bengal under the misrule of Miss Mamata Banerjee, where hundreds of leaders and activists of the opposition parties have been murdered. A big rise in the number of atrocities against women and curtailment of democratic rights are the rule of the day.
The procession started from the Daily Market and walked through the main thoroughfares before it assembled at Albert Ekka Chowk.
The members of the AIDWA raised slogans against the misrule of the TMC government, for its gross failure in ensuring safety and protection of women, and suppression of the democratic rights of the people.
The AIDWA members also expressed deep concern over the increasing incidents of rape in Ranchi and other parts of the state. They demanded immediate action against the culprits. The procession was led by Bina Linda, Renu Prakash, Gouri Susarla, Basanti Oraon, Josphin Gudia, Madhurvani, Rajni Kispotta, Pushpa Kujur, Jaimani Nayak, Lakshmi Nayak, Ashomani Devi, Jira Devi, Lakhia Oraon and others.
More protest programmes are being organised in different districts of the state, including Sindri, Jharia, Dhanbad, Gomo in Dhanbad district by the AIDWA, DYFI, SFI and CITU. Life insurance employees organized a candle march at Dhanbad district headquarters. At Jamshedpur, the AIDWA organised street corner meetings at different points in the city. At Bokaro steel city, processions and street corner meetings were organised by the CITU.
Different units of the CPI(M) are also organising protest programmes in various districts.
TRANSPORT WORKERS: The All India Road Transport Workers Federation (AIRTWF) has strongly condemned the action of the West Bengal state government, and is organising protest actions against the atrocious and unprecedented incident.
One recalls that when the police tried to forcibly cremate the body of the girl victim in order to wipe out the evidence, it was the working president of the AIRTWF, Shyamal Chakraborty, who is also the CITU state president in West Bengal, who intervened to prevent the police from its misdemeanour and also led a strong protest rally with the victim’s body.