No faith in cops under Mamata: kin of rape victims

President only hope for justice seekers from the state, who say they have no faith in state police under the Mamata Banerjee administration

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Puja Bhattacharjee | July 16, 2013


Relatives of the murder victim from Ranitala, Murshidabad. Her brother Majibul Hossain (extreme left) say cops intimidating them.
Relatives of the murder victim from Ranitala, Murshidabad. Her brother Majibul Hossain (extreme left) say cops intimidating them.

Days before he completes a year in Rashtrapati Bhavan, president Pranab Mukherjee has been forced to look into issues from his home state. Forced, because the issues at stake is poignant enough to move even the most hardened of politicians – and Mukherjee, the politician is as tough as they come.

As the Mamata Banerjee government’s purported failures on the law and order front – especially crime against women, which national crime records bureau (NCRB) records illustrate has taken a record jump, and which Banerjee claims is a conspiracy to malign her government – come home to roost in New Delhi, three different groups have met President Mukherjee in the last two days.

While family members of the 20-year-old gangrape-murder victim, whose death has spawned an unprecedented groundswell of angst against the Banerjee government, and concerned citizens from Kamduni, a village near Barasat in North 24 Parganas, met Mukherjee in Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday, two more families from Murshidabad met him on Tuesday. They allege that the local police have refuse to take their complaint of rape while registering cases of murder of the two village women.

“We apprised the president of the situation (in Kamduni) and asked him to ensure that the culprits are brought to book. He assured us that he will discuss the matter with the union home minister and the prime minister and decide on the course of action,” said Gautam (name changed on request; in fact the fear of a Trinamool Congress backlash has forced many of these otherwise brave people to go anonymous).

“Pranab-babu is from Bengal, so I could relate to him. We wanted to touch his feet but security did not permit us to touch him, though I touched his feet anyway. He did not make any comment on our chief minister. He listened to us with rapt attention and was shocked to hear of the savagery inflicted upon the victim (though sections of the media have named the Kamduni victim, we have decided to withhold the name – just as we did with the December 16 Delhi gangrape-murder victim.”

“We got more than we had expected,” Gautam added.

Pradeep Mukherjee, who lives in Madhyamgram and has been teaching in a primary school in Kamduni for the last 13 years, said harassment of women in the area has been growing for quite some time and the gangrape-murder on June 8 was the last straw for the villagers.

“She (victim) was my student – I taught her till class four,” Mukherjee said. “After the incident people were living in fear; many children had stopped coming to school. So we organised a rally in Kamduni on June 13 in which close to 500 people participated.”

Mukherjee said he was issued a show-cause notice by the state government for participating in the rally.

“I have heard that I will be show-caused again for coming to Delhi to meet the president,” he said. “The state government thinks I am influencing the villagers with a political agenda. But that’s not true – the truth is, the villagers wanted me to come and represent them to the president.”

Savagery, followed by indifference of a CM

Recounting the fateful day, Kamduni resident Piyali (name changed on request) said: “She was a very nice girl, working very hard to get a job. It was raining heavily that day. Her brother was going to receive her from the bus stop but got stranded in the rain. She waited a while in the shade of a nearby tea shop and then started for home. Those animals must have been following her – as she was making her way alongside a brick wall, she was dragged inside the compound.

“I cannot begin to describe the savagery inflicted on her body. Bottles and rods were inserted in her private parts... as if to eliminate any evidence of rape.”
Mamata Banerjee had visited the victim’s family on June 17, though the 10-minute meeting made more news for the way the chief minister reacted, slamming the protesting villagers and calling them “Maoists and CPM supporters”.

“We were caught unaware when Didi (Mamata Banerjee) came to visit,” said one of the women who was part of the team that met President Mukherjee. “It was in the afternoon, so we were busy either cooking, washing or having lunch. When we heard Didi has come we left what we were doing and went rushing to meet her. We wanted to register our grievances.

“We have so many problems... lack of school, college, roads and safety. We wanted her to assure us that this kind of mishap will never happen again.”
Pradeep Mukherjee said various anti-social and criminal activities have been going on in and around the village for quite some time. Illegal liquor is routinely sold at all entry points to the village.

Alluding to the police working under local Trinamool diktat, he said, “The main culprit, Ansar Ali, has been left out of the chargesheet because his sister is the pradhan of the gram panchayat, which is under the ruling party.”

“The state government had tried to bribe the girl’s family into silence. The food minister (Jyotipriya Mullick) came calling on the family and offered them Rs 70,000 and a job for the eldest son. He was turned away. Didi was in the village for only 15 to 20 minutes but she says she was in Kamduni for two hours. What can you possibly say in the face of such blatant lies?” he asked, bemused.

Mukherjee said since he has already been made a target, he is not afraid of further retaliation by the state government. “I have a daughter, so I have to raise my voice. People are already trying to politicise the issue. But criminals are criminals (despite their affiliation) – we are not concerned about their political affiliations.”

Others come calling – for justice

Baidyanath Das from Kharjuna, in Murshidabad district, said he has come to meet President Pranab Mukherjee to seek justice for his murdered wife. On the morning of June 23, his wife Shyamali had gone to the field to perform her morning ablutions. When she did not return for long, Das and other family members went looking for her.

They found her naked body inside an abandoned health centre. The perpetrator has been arrested but Das alleges that the local police want to project it only as murder and wants to suppress the fact that his wife was raped first.

“They have been assassinating the character of my dead wife by saying that it is an affair gone awry. I have two little children who will bear the brunt of social stigma if the police get away with their false claims,” Das said.

Das said he had approached Murshidabad MP Adhir Chowdhary of the Congress and sought his intervention. “He made all the arrangements for us to meet the president. I want justice and the truth to be established,” he added.

Majibul Hossain has come from Ranitala, Murshidabad, to seek justice for his sister, Rina Khatun, who went missing on the night on June 11. Mutilated beyond recognition, her body was found four days later. “It was eaten by wild animals. We discovered her clothes a little distance away from the body. The superintendent of police refused to lodge a complaint of rape and threatened us with dire consequences when we pressed on,” Hossain said.

“Why would her clothes be lying separately if she was not raped? I do not trust the police in our state. I will demand a CBI inquiry from the president,” he added.

Hossain said he had to work up the courage to come to Delhi to meet the president as he is afraid that he might be framed by the state in retaliatory action.

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