Over the past week,Kolkata and its neighbourhood have been seeing a series of protests following the brutal gangrape and murder in June 7 of a 20-year-old student at Kamdoni,a village on the outskirts of the city.
Villagers have been demanding the death sentence to the rapists. There have been eight arrests so far; the CID has taken over the investigation.
The protests started spontaneously the moment the girl was found dead,with villagers blockading roads and taking out a procession. It was a spontaneous gathering. All of us joined hands as if the tragedy has struck everyone’s home, said the girls brother.
Since then,various other groups have taken up the protest. Women of the Nari Maitreyee group protested outside Chief Minister Mamata Banerjees home on Wednesday. Students of the girls college have protested in Kolkata and will take out a candle march on June 15. The students wings of the Congress and a few Left parties,and the rights group APDR have held rallies in various parts of Kolkata.
What has contributed to the public sentiment is the background the girl came from. Daughter of a daily wage earner,she was hoping for a better life by pursuing her studies. And she was a good student,in the second year of arts at Dirozio Memorial College.
She said she would shine in life, said her father,who works as a helper to a mason,earning Rs 100 a day to support his wife and three children.
She was returning from an exam,held at East Calcutta Girls College. It was raining and the road was empty. A group of men,who villagers say often harass girls,was waiting for her on the way. They forced her into an office at a construction site. After raping and murdering her,they dumped her body in a fish pond.
Searching for her,the family went to that very spot by instinct. She often used to say boys sitting in front of the sites main gate would pass lewd comments, her brother said. They found bloodstains on the floor of the room where she had been killed,and finally found the body in the pond.
The outburst was immediate,and Barasat police officials had to be assisted by RAF personnel to control the crowd. A lathicharge angered the protesters further. They damaged the car of local MP Haji Nurul Islam. When minister Jyotipriya Mullick offered Rs 30,000 as compensation,the crowd offered him Rs 60,000, the brother said.
We went to Writers Buildings and met the CM, he added. Our only demand was that the offenders should be hanged. Jyotipriya Mullick was there. He said the state would give jobs to both of us brothers,and help us financially,but we said we would be satisfied only with the death penalty.
He said the CM had assured them that they would ensure the strictest punishment for the accused.
Three other girls in the village go to the same college,the nearest. Since the incident,the parents of none of the girls want them to continue studying.
The mother of one girl said,My daughter is in the first year; I have asked her to discontinue college. She too is scared. College gives over around 5 pm and they have to cross that spot when they return. It is a frigthening thought,especially during the winter.
Derozio College principal Dr Dibyendu Talapatra said the villagers fear for their daughters was natural,and hoped it would be momentary. People are scared,naturally. We have asked for police patrolling in the area and a police kiosk here, he said.
The prime suspect,Ansar Ali,reportedly has connections to the Trinamool Congress,something some leaders concede and others deny. MP Islam said,Ansar had been working for the CPM and later joined the Trinamool,but there have been instances when our chief has given strict punishment even to our partymen.
Minister Jyotipriya Mullick said the government has taken prompt action and denied any connection between Ansar Ali and the party. We too are looking for the death penalty to the accused, he said.
Villagers have described Ansar as a local terror and a relative of Sayeeda Bibi,gram pradhan in Kamdoni. The pradhans husband,Ashraf Ali Mollah,said,Ansar is not a relative of ours or a party member. He calls my wife chachi but many others do.