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Politics over a dead body

madhyamgram gang rape

The culture of politics in West Bengal has always been vitriolic, opportunist and crude – to say the least. Three decades of Communist rule has destroyed the very fabric of a democratic dialogue, and courtesies in the State. That the current Chief Minister has been on a course of corrective measures is a different story. But a recent tragedy, followed by display of exemplary standards of shamelessness by political formations in the State, has sent the political observer in me into a tizzy.

On October 25, 2013 a 16 year old girl was raped in Madhyamgram, by a local fish-seller and his friends. The girl lodged a complaint the very next day. 3 days later, while returning after medical tests, the girl was raped again. Following a second complaint, all accused were arrested. The date was October 31, 2013. 55 days later, on December 17, 2013 the police chargesheeted.

However, the events took a tragic course, as the girl was found ablaze on December 23, 2013 – theories for the reasons of which have been many. The parents, initially told police the girl attempted suicide, unable to bear the constant chatter about her character from the neighbours and society at large. Few days later, it was alleged that the victim was set afire to prevent her from proceeding with the case.

On December 31, as the world was ushering in the New year, the victim succumbed to her burn injuries. She had suffered 65-70% burns. That is when all hell broke loose.

The father of the victim is reportedly a member of the CITU. According to a Bengali news channel, the mother of the prime accused went on record to say the accused has been an active member of the Forward Bloc for 25 years, and currently served the CPI(M) since 2010. Although, on 31 Dec, RG Kar Hospital complex was thronged by activists belonging to the same Communist Party, whose members perpetrated the ghastly crimes, demanding justice for the girl.

To make matters worse, the Govt of Bihar jumped in to fish in troubled waters. Just because the family of the girl was of Bihari origin, he ordered monetary help for the dead girl, and even sent the State DIG to Bengal (against all rules and jurisdiction). Shameless display of crony parochialism at its worst. Even the Congress, which beat up peaceful protesters after Delhi gangrape, instead of taking corrective action, flocked the streets shedding tears for “Kolkata’s Damini”.

Having been associated with many protest movements in the past, I was baffled. What was the definition of justice in this case? The accused were in jail, case was moving on fast-track basis, hearing was due to begin in January, and the State Government promised they will seek highest punishment in the case.

If the goondaism of the Communist organisations at the hospital on New Year’s eve was deplorable, so was the unpreparedness of the administration the next day. The police tried to prevent a repeat of previous night’s ruckus and tried to quietly sneak out the body of the victim for cremation. But the CITU hijacked the body of the girl, paraded it all through the city and turned a victim into a showpiece at their party office for the full day. Coming from the party that assassinated Tapasi Malik, and dragged a Union Ministry out of the Secretariat for demanding justice for Jagori Baske, the sudden love for women’s rights was astounding. Like Kamduni, Madhyamgram was easily turned into a political tool.

The tamasha ensued with the national media throwing their hats in, social media outrage (with half truths) and constant politics over a dead body that was a political goldmine now. One fake account on Twitter, impersonating the WB CM, even went to the extent of declaring the accused as cadre of the ruling party. Some non resident bengalis, whose knowledge of happenings in the state is derived from stories in NDTV and Hindustan Times (or Anandabazar at best), devised their own version of how the girl was raped and burnt alive on the same day.

In this jet age, when people do not have time to read beyond headlines, spreading misinformation is not difficult. I just want to ask a few questions to my readers, hope i get some answers:

1. Were the accused in the rape case not arrested within 3 days?

2. Were the accused not chargesheeted within record 50 days? Has the Govt not added the charge of murder after the death of the victim?

3. Did the Govt not offer all help to family, legal and financial? A probe on the immolation bid is on. What else do people want? Verdict in kangaroo court?

4. People protested against police’s role after the girl’s death. Why did the same people not find CITU’s vicious play of politics unpalatable?

5. Parading with a dead body, shouting political slogans, is feminism?

6. Those who are calling for justice, please enlighten me with the definition of the same.

Useful links:

First report of the gangrape in Madhyamgram: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1131029/jsp/calcutta/story_17504610.jsp#.Usri_NIW1QI

Chief Secretary of WB on the incident – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4rnU_NtlOM

The Police chargesheet: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/kolkata-teen-was-gangraped-8-times-in-2-hours-chargesheet/1215631/

Suicide bid of the girl and her death: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/minor-who-was-gangraped-twice-dies-a-week-after-suicide-bid/1214043/

Did constant ostracisation by neighbours lead the girl to suicide? http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140103/jsp/frontpage/story_17747092.jsp#.UsrpXNIW1QI

Institutionalised Myths – Bengal

Chief Minister

Courtesy ET

Over the past two weeks, the social media platforms have gone into frenzy over “fascist” actions of the government of West Bengal. Cartoons, which have been at the center of it all, have been floating on the net criticising the high handedness of the present regime. Albeit, there is no smoke without fire, but sadly, most of the outrage was misplaced and fuelled by half baked truths sold by section of visual and print media.

A furore arose on Twitter when a Delhi based English news channel reported that the “Chief Minister” of West Bengal had “banned” Marx from the History syllabus. Without delving into details, and without bothering to cross check facts, think tanks (including veteran historian and exiled writer) on the microblogging site started hitting out at the “dictatorship” of the current government which was “bent on rewriting history”. It took an interview of the chairman of the syllabus reforms committee to TOI and official statement from Higher Education Minister to set the records straight. None, however, bothered to express apologies for their hasty reactions.

The Chief Minister came under scathing attack from the Twitter celebs when a professor of Jadavpur University was arrested by police for circulating cartoons on the CM. People, who had not the slightest idea about the state, became experts on the affairs of West Bengal overnight. From sarcastic tweets to personal insults – the woman who freed Bengal from the communists had to bear lashes for a crime unfounded.

A reputed media house (followed by all other English news channels) reported that Bengal CM personally ordered the arrest of JU professor who “created” that cartoon. The truth in this statement is as prudent as the existence of Santa Claus. Not only was the professor NOT the one to create the cartoon, the CM was not even in Kolkata when the incident happened. Government of West Bengal did not appear in the list of complainants against the professor, neither were any complainants remotely related to the ruling party.

Hajra

Courtesy India Today

To even imagine that a lady, who has had to undergo vitriolic attacks in her career spanning four decades, will take offence to something as trivial as a cartoon. Someone who in the past has been compared to sex workers, dragged by her hair out of state Secretariat (despite being a Central Minister), beaten to near death for defying a Bandh, would be so immature. To even suggest that a lady who has books on humor and cartoons to her credit, who in recent past had offered all help to ailing cartoonist Narayan Debnath, would be averse to cartoons. Had she not possessed the patience, her struggle would always have remained a myth.

The national media tactfully “forgot” to mention in its reports that the CM, upon finding out the case of the professor, ordered Kolkata Police not to oppose his bail. If some women (out of their respect for CM, as they said in their complaint) find a certain picture derogatory, how is the CM to be blamed for it? This is akin to blaming the woman for inviting rape.

“Beware, the Big Brother is watching”. Another piece of fiction sprung from some fertile mind, that the government was monitoring social media for all contents that spoke badly of the present government of West Bengal, started surfacing during the weekend. Despite assurances from party general secretary on TV, there were hardly any takers for the contrary.

The CID, as part of its job, asked for some IP details based on a complaint from a resident of Salt Lake. The complainant, in an interview to TOI, said he made complaints against certain forums on Facebook, out of his reverence for Didi. The national media chose to pin blames on “fascist” government “which has lost the plot” “to paranoia”.

The most tragic of it all, the statements from a revered scientist who was detained for being in a protest march at Nonadanga where illegal encroachers were being evicted to make way for developmental projects of KMDA. Dr Partha Sarathi Roy saw “dark days of democracy” in Bengal under this regime which sought to displace “innocent slum dwellers from their property”.

maa mati manush

Courtesy Indian Express

Dr Roy is an honorable scientist. Probably due to the deluge of work that he has to perform for furthering the cause of science in India, that he missed reading two reports on Nonadanga, one in TOI, and the other in Telegraph (yes, the BIGGEST critic of the CM currently). Had he seen them, he would have known that the Government of WB has rehabilitated all the 200 families that were placed in makeshift arrangements at Nonadanga when they were evicted from Gobindopur Railway COlony in 2006.

Dr Roy would also have come to know from these reports that brokers, who happened to be CPM workers, had leased out property to emigrants from various villages in 24 Parganas, Hooghly and even Bankura, who had emigrated with the hope of having a share of the pie of government rehabilitation. Can Dr Roy hold the CM responsible for this? Is the government responsible for the future of these slum dwellers who had encroached upon government property?

Dr Partha Sarathi Roy is an honourable man. When he speaks of dictorship it pains me. He is genuinely unaware of the latest report from Ministry of Home Affairs which cautions GoWB against rising Maoist influence in Kolkata (with ISI help) and their involvement in Nonadanga. The report names Matangini Mahila Samiti as a frontal organisation (Debalina, a member of the same, was arrested with Dr Roy from Nonadanga during protests). When Dr Roy says he has no links to Maoists, i believe him. Of course, he is being framed by a dictator to silence the voice of freedom.

What is a dictator? A leader detached from the masses, intoxicated by power, who cares least for civil liberties or welfare, right? Does our CM fit the bill? Yes of course! She is the first person to rush to North Bengal when earthquake strikes (probably the first CM in 4 decades to visit NB 5 times in 34 years), the first person to rush to monitor flood relief in South Bengal, a CM who goes on district tours every month to monitor the pace of work at grassroot levels, a leader who gives lift to stranded citizens on the night when Kolkata was under siege of a storm – all signs of a dictator?

Didi

Courtesy ABP

I knew dictators lived lavishly at the expense of tax payers. I did not know the definition of dictator includes them who do not draw any salary for a public post, travel by their own car and refuse to travel in a cavalcade, causing discomfort to public. It irks me when someone calls this woman heartless, for we have seen her cry for Tapshi Malik. It pains me to hear someone call her Hitler, for we have always heard her say “Ami tomader e lok”. It anguishes me to read figments of imagination propagated as news, just to embarrass a government run by a woman who lives on her own terms.

(Chapter 2 : Why The Indian Media Loves to Show Bengal in bad light while eclipsing good stories emanating out of the State).

To Be Continued…..

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