West Bengal

Brutality against women

Print edition : February 20, 2015

National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumarmangalam talking to the woman who was tortured by the police and Trinamool activists in Birbhum in West Bengal. Photo: PTI

IN an act of barbarity in Bardhaman district, the police, along with some activists of the ruling Trinamool Congress, allegedly tortured a woman on January 17 night to extract information about a Bharatiya Janata Party worker who was her relative and was wanted by the police.

The woman, a resident of Parui in Birbhum district, was at her father’s house at Kalamdanga village in Bardhaman district, when some policemen from Birbhum and a group of Trinamool Congress activists came enquiring about her nephew, Mithun Sheikh. Mithun was allegedly involved in bloody political clashes in Parui between BJP and Trinamool supporters.

When the woman denied knowledge of Mithun’s whereabouts, they dragged her out to a nearby forest, tied her to a tree and beat her mercilessly.

The woman alleged that her assailants slashed her with blades and rubbed nettles (leaves that sting) on her body. They hit her with sticks, broke several fingers of her hands and sprinkled water on her to revive her when she fainted. The police team included the Officer-in-Charge of the Parui police station and the Circle Inspector of Bolpur police station (in Birbhum district).

She claimed that after being tortured for about an hour she was taken to the Illambazaar police station in Birbhum where she was forced to give her thumb impression on a blank sheet of paper.

“In the last three years under the Trinamool government, miscreants belonging to the ruling party have been carrying out atrocities on women without any restraint,” said Biman Bose, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and secretary of the State unit of the party.

The incidence of crime against women has been on the rise for several years now in the State. According to the “Crimes in India” report for 2013, published by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2014, West Bengal ranks third in the country in crimes against women.

Speaking to the media, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), who recorded the statement of the victim, said, “I have never come across such an incident before…. Be it the administration or the police which is responsible, such torture should never have happened.”

The Trinamool Congress government’s lack of initiative in the case came in for severe criticism. On January 19, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court, headed by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, initiated suo motu proceedings in the case. Though the Crime Investigation Department (CID) took over the case subsequently and the accused police personnel were suspended, the victim continued to remain in a state of fear.

“Those who tortured me are moving around the village freely. I want them to be punished,” said the woman on January 24.

“We are being threatened constantly and are afraid to walk out of the house,” said her husband. The woman claimed that Trinamool activists approached her when she was in hospital and offered her money to withdraw the charges.

According to Samik Bhattacharya, BJP leader and a member of the Legislative Assembly, there is a “reign of terror” in the Parui region. “Those accused in this terrible crime are given police protection, while the victims live in fear. The police and the ruling party are acting as a single entity in the State,” Bhattacharya told Frontline.

In what seemed to be a similar incident, on January 25 in Kultali in South 24 Parganas district, a 40-year-old widow was stripped, tied to a tree and beaten up by local goons allegedly close to the Trinamool Congress.

The woman, apparently a CPI(M) supporter, was dragged out of her house in broad daylight and tortured until other women of the village came to her rescue.

“What happened was inhuman. It is a terrifying reflection of what is happening around us,” said senior CPI(M) leader Kanti Ganguly, who had rushed to the spot.

The following day the accused were given bail, giving rise to the suspicion that their closeness to the ruling party prompted the police to not invoke more stringent and deterrent action.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay

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