Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s insensitive remarks about the alleged rape and murder of a minor in which the son of her party functionary is the prime accused, have invited widespread condemnation. But Banerjee is known for such comments on rapes, molestations and murders in which her party members are the accused.
A minor girl was allegedly raped at Hanskhali in Nadia district by the son of a Trinamool panchayat member and local strongman Samarendra Gayali on 4 April. She died the next day and her body was hastily cremated without any postmortem examination. Her family members were allegedly coerced into silence by Gayali and other local Trinamool functionaries, and could muster the courage to lodge a police complaint only on 9 April.
The incident sparked outrage, especially from the opposition which launched a scathing attack on the Trinamool. At an event on Monday (11 April), Banerjee rejected the opposition charges, but went on to make outrageous statements.
“Was she actually raped? Was she pregnant? Was there some other reason? Did someone slap her? Was she sick? It is known that the boy and the girl were in love. Even her family and neighbours knew about it. Isn’t it a fact,” she asked, turning to state Director General of Police (DGP) Manoj Malviya who was present there (read this).
The victim’s sister reportedly told the police that the victim was having an affair with the accused and the latter had invited her (the victim) to his birthday party at his residence on 4 April. According to preliminary reports, the victim was allegedly given alcohol and then raped by the accused and two of his friends.
She returned home bleeding profusely and collapsed. She died the next day and her family members were allegedly warned by the father of the accused, who is a local strongman, and his followers as well as other Trinamool functionaries against going to the police. The body of the victim was hastily cremated.
Gayali, the Trinamool neta, and his family members fled Hanskhali when the family of the victim, goaded by neighbours and others, managed to muster the courage to lodge a police complaint.
Banerjee could not desist from scoring political brownie points either. “I cannot stop boys and girls from falling in love. This is not Uttar Pradesh. I cannot start a love jihad programme. It is a matter of personal liberty,” she said. She went on to accuse the girl’s family of not informing the police on time.
The Chief Minister’s remarks drew widespread criticism. Social media erupted in denouncements with many pointing out that what made matters worse was that the comments came from a woman.
But then, Banerjee has a history of making such comments. One of the most infamous incidents was the Park Street rape case of February 2012 (read this). A woman was gang-raped by five men inside a moving car in the wee hours of 5 February 2012. She filed a police complaint on 9 February and a medical examination on 14 February confirmed rape.
But Banerjee dismissed the crime as a “fabricated incident” (shajano ghotona, she said in Bengali) aimed at maligning her government. As if on cue, her party Member of Parliament Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar suggested that the victim was a sex worker and the incident was a fallout of “a dispute over monetary matters” (read all about it here).
What was also very disgraceful was the manner in which Kolkata Police’s Joint Commissioner (Crime), Damayanti Sen, was shunted out and posted as DIG (Training) for solving the case and arresting the accused. She was ‘punished’ for disproving the Chief Minister.
In June 2013, Banerjee dubbed women who were demanding stern action against criminals who brutally raped and murdered a college girl at Kamduni in North 24 Parganas as “CPI(M) supporters”. The rape and murder had shocked the state, and when Banerjee went to visit the victim’s family in the village, she was greeted by angry protests.
In response, Banerjee accused the women of the village of politicising the protests. Her reaction incensed the villagers who knew that the accused were kin of local Trinamool functionaries (read this). What’s more, the Chief Minister also initiated police action against some prominent women’s rights activists who had taken up the rape and murder case.
Banerjee’s dismissal of the numerous rapes, molestations, assaults and murders of opposition (primarily Bharatiya Janata Party) workers and activists over the last few years has also been shocking. She has often termed the cases as fallouts of domestic or property disputes and refused to accept them as political violence perpetrated by her own party members.
The Bengal Chief Minister has, time and again, turned a blind eye to many cases of crime against women when her party functionaries are the accused. And she sees a conspiracy in all crimes against women where the alleged perpetrators are Trinamool party members or supporters.
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