National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma, after she recently met rape victims of Suri and Amta, in Birbhum and Howrah districts, respectively, told Arshad Ali that the law and order situation in West Bengal has nosedived and that she expected the Chief Minister to be more concerned about this as she is herself a woman.
The Labhpur gangrape victim is said to have been gangraped following the decision of a kangaroo court. What did she tell you?
I met her at the state-run home where she has been put up for the time being. She told me she had an affair with a married Muslim man. On January 21, after she was spotted with the man, other people of the tribal community criticised her sharply and were of the opinion that if she was available for a married man, why couldn’t she be available for the rest? Then the 13 men she had named, allegedly gangraped her.
There have been talks about the involvement of members of the ruling party in the incident.
We did not find any such evidence and the girl, too, did not mention any political party. How is the girl now?
She has been given a good and prompt medical attention but she doesn’t want to return to Subalpur village where she is from. She said she would want to go to her uncle’s place in the adjacent village with her mother. The state government has built a house for them there. She is yet to fully recover from the trauma.
What about the rape victims of Amta?
I met them as well. The mother-in-law and daughter-in-law had been brutally raped and police had to be prodded into action after the incident was televised on national TV. The two victims are traumatised. In this case too, they were happy with the medical aid but what the police did leaves a lot to be desired.
What is your impression of the state?
The recent incidents (of violence against women) are most unfortunate for both the state and the country. The National Crime Records Bureau statistics show that West Bengal is right on top in terms of violence against women. The law and order situation here has touched rock bottom. The Chief Minister being a woman herself, should be more sensitive towards the cases of violence against women. More stern steps should be taken to rein in perpetrators.
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What are your recommendations for the state?
We would recommend police protection for the families of the victims. There should be a proper rehabilitation programme for them. The District Magistrate of Birbhum, who was there when I visited the 20-year-old victim, had said she would be given a job under the Anganwadi scheme. I would recommend its implementation.
The state government criticised you of politicising the issues.
It is sad and unfortunate. We want to tell the Chief Minister that it is time we rose above politics and worked towards the betterment of these victims. We are ready to give her suggestions if she wants but she has no time to meet us. We have sent several requests to meet her but to no avail.