As Bengal Goes to Polls, Will Women Be Safe Under Mamata Di?
A university student in Kolkata alleged on Sunday that she had been assaulted and abused for wearing shorts and smoking by some men returning from a poll rally of the “ruling party”.
The incident occurred when she and her male friend – a student of the same university – were returning home (to Gandhi Colony in Netaji Nagar), when they chose to halt at a place near her home for a smoke. Suddenly, six men returning from a political rally –allegedly a TMC one – accosted them and demanded an explanation as to why she was wearing shorts and puffing a cigarette. Abuse and assault followed. Police, however, said that so far there was no proof of a political link.
The incident caused a flutter when the girl posted the entire ‘experience’ on her Facebook wall – the post naturally going viral within seconds.
In a few days from now, Bengal is looking at a decisive electoral mandate as several sections of the State have already gone into active polling. And yet one can’t help but wonder: what happens to women’s safety and who takes the responsibility for a woman’s body here?
Grim Statistics and Claims of ‘Shajano Ghotona’
In 2012, according to The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), West Bengal topped the charts for crimes against women. Ironical this, in a State ruled by a woman CM –Mamata Banerjee – whose poll cry and popular slogan was ‘Ma, Mati, Manush,’ (mother, earth and mankind).
But as usual there was an air of defiance and denial, as the West Bengal director general of police Naparajit Mukherjee strongly counter alleged –
In March this year, a young woman jumped from the second floor of a two-storey house in Liluah in Howrah district to evade an alleged sexual assault. Three men, including her boyfriend, had allegedly tried to rape her.
Such cases aren’t novel. They’re just as constant as the apathetic attitude of the CM, and her almost juvenile platitudes on sexual crimes that she conveniently labels as staged encounters, aka ‘shajano ghotona’. The Park Street rape case, the gruesome Kamdhuni gang rape and murder case – are all appalling reminders.
What ‘Poriborton’ Will Ensure Women Aren’t Sexually Violated?
Even the latest data is disheartening and dismal.
According to NCRB, in 2015, out of the 3,37,922 incidents of crime against women Bengal had the second highest number of cases of crime against women at 38,299. It’s been a decade since the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA), 2005, was passed, but the state has just 21 women protection officers, all on contractual basis and paid a pittance of Rs 12,000 for the entire state (sans support staff).
What ‘poriborton’ will ensure women – be it in villages or in the heart of Kolkata – are not sexually violated? West Bengal’s deteriorating law and order situation has proved a major embarrassment for Mamata Banerjee – and one wonders if she will actually insist on an infrastructural and judicial re-haul that rests on speedy justice and fast tracking of rape cases.
Will she desist from shouting ‘conspiracy’ every time a woman is molested? Or will she exhibit the same ennui each time a sexual crime is reported, despite being a woman leader who banks largely on female votes to win a majority?
Not be touched, tantalised and tormented?
(The writer is an ex lifestyle editor and PR vice president, and now a full-time novelist and columnist on sexuality and gender, based in Delhi. She is the author of ‘Faraway Music’ and ‘Sita’s Curse’. Her third book ‘You’ve Got The Wrong Girl’ is out next.)