Violence on Women in W Bengal
In the year 2011, West Bengal with 7.5% share of country’s population has accounted for nearly 12.7% of total crime against women by reporting 29,133 cases.
Torture cases in the country have increased by 5.4% over the previous year. 19.9% of these were reported from West Bengal (19,772 cases). The highest crime rate of 21.6 was also reported from West Bengal as compared to the National rate at 8.2.
West Bengal recorded 2,363 incidents of rape in 2011, over the previous year’s 2,311. This constitutes 9.7% of the total number of registered cases of rape (24,206) across the nation.
[Data published by National Crime Records Bureau]
In West Bengal, the almost-daily incidents of molestation, harassment, rape, as well as longer term statistics published by the NCRB, are as much a result of lumpenisation of political forces as of a vicious cycle of denials by the Mamata government coupled with gross apathy and inaction of her police forces.
In the backdrop of rising violence, AIPWA held a mass-convention on 12th September, in a packed auditorium at Moulali Yuva Kendra in Kolkata. AIPWA state secretary Chaitali Sen conducted the meeting.
Serina Khatun, sister of the victim of rape at Jagachha, shared the harrowing experience at the police station. She stressed the need for women to organize and collectively combat the ongoing sexual violence. Other notable speakers included poet and author Nabarun Bhattacharya, poet Krishna Basu, professor Saswati Ghosh, Deshabrati editor Animesh Chakraborty on behalf of CPI (ML) Liberation, AICCTU leader Meena Pal and AIPWA leader Indrani Dutta.
The recent move to shrug off administrative responsibility by paying ‘compensation’ to the victim was strongly condemned. ‘We demand fast-track courts for justice to the victim and punishment to the culprit, not ‘compensation’ for rape’, said a speaker.
Saswati stressed the need to use the word narir izzat (dignity of women) with caution while referring to instances of gendered violence. “The word izzat carries the connotation of ‘shame’ and losing one’s honour. However it’s certainly not the woman victim who loses her dignity when a crime like rape is committed; the perpetrators are the ones who should be held in shame,” she reminded, to a huge round of applause. Nabarun cited systemic instances of sexual violence in the country and the world and connected it to the plight of the working women and increasing commodification of women. The presence of huge number of working women in the thousand-plus audience was noteworthy.
The following demands were raised from the convention platform and voted for unanimously:
1) The state women’s commission must be reconstituted by including representatives from progressive and democratic women’s organisations.
2) The guilty must be identified and be given exemplary punishment in each of the reported cases of violence against women.
3) If the police is found guilty of not registering complaints by affected women then the concerned personnel must be promptly punished.
4) Special cells must be set up in each block of every district to register grievances and complaints of women.
5) Exemplary punishment must be meted out to those responsible for abuse of women in police custody.
6) The police personnel guilty of harassing athlete Pinki Pramanik must be booked and the licences of the doctor and the nursing home where her ‘gender determination’ test was held in controversial manner should be immediately revoked.
7) The state administration must take full responsibility to ensure safety and well being of the victims of gendered violence.
Spate of Rapes
February 5, 2012, Kolkata: Rape of a woman in Park Street; subjected to sexist taunts by the police; Mamata brands her a liar, and gets the woman police officer who cracked the case, transferred.
June 26, 2012, Gurap: A 30-year old mentally challenged woman Guria, raped, killed and buried in the backyard of a privately-run rehabilitation centre at Dhaniakhali in Hooghly district. At least four inmates of the same home had died mysterious deaths in last few months. Police, however, protects those who run the institution.
July 5, 2012, Sutia: Barun Biswas, a teacher who had organized the local people for more than a decade into a peoples’ forum called Pratibadi Mancha to stand up against more than 40 rapes of local women committed by a politically protected lumpen gang operating in the area, is murdered in broad daylight.
July 25, 2012, Satragachi: A middle aged woman worker was raped near the Satragachi bridge in Howrah district. When the profusely bleeding woman reached the Jagacha PS, the assistant sub-inspector refused to register her FIR or assist her medically. The police continued to take down her complaint repeatedly even after her relatives came to her aide later in the day. It was only after the matter got released in the media that the police performed their primary duty, by which time the culprit got away.
July 27, 2012, Barasat: An 18-year-old girl was abused and molested by a pack of men near Barasat police station. When the girl’s father rushed to her aide, he was beaten up.
August 18, 2012, Jadavpur: Six men raped a woman in near Jadavpur police station in Kolkata.
September 10, 2012, Durgapur: A 38-year old woman was gang-raped by several men near the city center of Durgapur Town in Bardhaman district, while her husband was beaten and tied up to a tree by the assaulters.
Administrative Cover-up and Sexist Justifications
• Mamata Banerjee accuses Park Street victim of hatching a ‘conspiracy’ against her government
• Kolkata Police Commissioner R.K. Pachnanda parrots the line of ‘fabricated allegation’
• Minister Madan Mitra comments on the ‘morals’ of the victim, asking what kind of a mother visits a pub
• When the Joint Police Commissioner (crime), Damayanti Sen, refused to toe the official line and announced after investigations that indeed a rape had happened and arrested three accused, she was promptly transferred from her position in the detective department.
• After the Barasat incident, Chiranjeet, the actor-MLA of Barasat blamed the way a woman dresses, for provoking rape.
• Chairperson of the state Women’s Commission, Sunanda Mukhopadhyay said, “I don’t think that cases of rape and molestation are on the rise in West Bengal” (Bartaman daily, 10th August 2012), and says cases of violence against women are being ‘politicized’. Her words are echoed by Director General of Police, Naparajit Mukhopadhyay, at a press conference.