On New Year’s day when revelry sweeps every city of the world, thousands erupted in protest in Kolkata over the death of the Madhyamgram rape victim and the subsequent police atrocities on the victim’s family. Thousands descended on the streets on Wednesday in a show of solidarity with the victim’s family amidst a highly surcharged atmosphere, even as the 16-year-old girl was cremated at Nimtala ghat.
The city was rudely shocked after it came to light that the victim told the police on December 27 that a group of criminals set her ablaze and she did not try to commit suicide.
The rally, though organised by the CPI(M) and its affiliate organisations, witnessed participation by a group of villagers from Kamduni, including Pradip Mukherjee, the headmaster of the local primary school, and scientist Parthasarathi Roy, one of the leaders of the Nonadanga anti-eviction drive.
A group of intellectuals also held a rally from College Square to Esplanade on Wednesday protesting the gruesome incident. The rally was participated by director Aparna Sen, painter Samir Aich and academician Miratun Nahar among others.
The leader of the opposition in the assembly Suryakanta Mishra led the rally from the Citu office on AJC Bose Road to Esplanade with the body of the victim. "Soon after Tuesday night’s incident where police held up the body and tormented the victim’s family, I had a word with the home secretary. I told him, instead of standing beside the victim’s family, police are practically playing the role of goons," Mishra said.
"We believe without orders from the top, police could not have acted the way they did. Police are even trying to downplay the incident as evident from the fact that they registered the second rape complaint as molestation. What is striking is the silence of the chief minister on the issue. She only gave her wishes for the New Year but conveniently sidestepped the brutal incident," Mishra added.
The victim was gang raped by more than six youths on October 26 and allegedly the second time the next day after she lodged a police complaint. The family shifted from Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas to Airport gate number 2½ to escape taunts and threats from the associates of the accused. However, the accused continued to threaten the family to withdraw the police case.
On December 23, the girl is believed to have set herself on fire, though her father, a taxi driver by profession, alleged that it was the accused who set his daughter on fire. Soon after the victim breathed her last on Tuesday, police reportedly tried to forcibly cremate her.
The victim’s father complained that police asked them to go back to Bihar, where they originally belong, and even threatened to cancel his driving license in case of non-compliance. The victim’s father further alleged goons threatened to shoot him dead in front of the police and the latter stood as mere spectators.
The victim’s parents even approached governor M K Narayanan on Wednesday and filed a petition seeking protection for the family and gallows for the accused. The girl’s father even expressed his fears on returning home and requested the governor to arrange for a secure location.
"The victim did not receive proper treatment in hospital. The health department should be held accountable for the death. The goons wanted to burn her alive and police wanted to cremate her body despite reservations from the family. Such activities are only encouraging the underworld," said CPI(M) state secretary.
Going by the strong reaction over the incident from different quarters, the next few days promises to be stormy as well. The Congress has planned protests on Thursday and villagers of rape-affected Kamduni, Sutia, Gede and Kharjuna would hold a rally on January 5 in the city.
"The way the victim’s father stood his ground in the face of repeated threats from police and goons is commendable. Even we faced the same situation and fully sympathise with the family," Pradip Mukherjee said.