Kolkata Police stop Left-Congress march against Hathras rape-murder, allow Mamata’s rally

Published : October 03, 2020 22:24 IST

In Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee leads a Trinamool Congress rally on October 3 to protest against the rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

The streets of Kolkata erupted in protest on October 3 as political parties and leaders, including the ruling Trinamool Congress and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, hit the streets in condemnation of rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh. While Mamata attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments both at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh, protesters in the rally jointly organised by the Left and the Congress raised slogans against the BJP and the Trinamool government in West Bengal. The Left-Congress rally, however, was stopped by the police.

Coming down heavily against the Yogi Adityanath government in UP, and the manner in which it was handling the situation, Mamata said, “Criminal offences can take place anywhere, and we condemn it regardless of where it happens. People expect justice when such things happen. But what happened there? Without giving the body to the family, the police burnt the body… they have taken away their [the victim’s family members’] phones. They are not allowing the media to meet the family.” She said she had tried to reach the family members of the victim on phone, only to find out that their phones had been confiscated. “Today I am not a Hindu, I am a Dalit,” said Mamata, announcing that her party will hold poster-rallies in every block in the State.

What was supposed to have been a protest march against an inhuman crime, also took on the colour of a political rally with an eye to the upcoming Assembly election (scheduled in 2021), as Mamata trained her guns on her main political opponent — the BJP. She attacked the saffron party on a wide range of issues, including the Farm Acts, the divestment of Air India, GST, unemployment, attacks on democracy and others. Among the chants with which she ended her rally, “We don’t want the BJP in Bengal” was very prominent.

The combined rally organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and the Congress, was as unsparing of Mamata as it was of the BJP. CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya said, “Just as the police in Uttar Pradesh are trying to cover up the rape case in Hathras, in West Bengal, too, the police tried to hide evidence in the Madhyamgram case. The most prominent leader to encourage rapists in the State is Mamata Banerjee. There is no difference between Yogi and Mamata.”

Lashing out at the State government for the police stopping the protest march, Sujan Chakraborty of the CPI(M) who is also Leader of the Left Legislature Party, told Frontline, “What the BJP does in other States, Trinamool does the same thing in West Bengal.... From the manner in which the police stopped the Left-Congress procession today it becomes clear that Trinamool also wants to snatch away the right to protest, just like the BJP.” According to him, Mamata’s speech exposed the fact that her “protest was hollow and aimed for the sole purpose of securing votes. It was self-defeating.” The Left and the Congress have also announced that they will hold protests against atrocities on women not just in Hathras, but also other places, including Ghatal and Debra in West Bengal.