We the undersigned activists associated with women’s movements in different parts of the country write to you to express our deep disappointment at a recent statement attributed to you in which you had said that in the coming Lok Sabha elections you would be campaigning only for the Trinamool Congress Party and its leader, Ms. Mamta Banerjee.
Annaji, many of us have been following your struggles against corruption over the years. From small satyagrahas in Maharashtra to the huge mobilisations in Delhi you have been stressing of the need to cleanse Indian politics from corruption. You have also been expressing your anguish over the violence that women and young girls are subjected to in different parts of the country.
We are, therefore, shocked that you have chosen to express support to and solidarity with the Chief Minister of West Bengal who, in three years, has transformed West Bengal from being the safest State for women to the most unsafe.
It is not just the fact that the most barbaric forms of violence are being suffered by women and girls in the State but the fact that in many cases, leaders and activists of the ruling Party are involved and, very often, the reaction of the Chief Minister has been insensitive, critical of the victim and not reflective of any intention of punishing the perpetrators and making the State safe for women once again.
We would like to bring to your notice the fact that the National Crimes Records Bureau in its Annual Report of 2012 (most recent) has said that “West Bengal with 7.5% share of country’s female population has accounted for nearly 12.7% of total crime against women by reporting 30,942 cases during the year 2012.”
In other words, in the fields of general crime and crimes against women, West Bengal registered an increase of 41.6% in 2012 which is the highest in the country. Most unfortunately, the State Government’s complete failure to address this issue has resulted in the situation worsening in 2013 and in the first two months of 2014.
We would like to bring a few recent examples to your notice:
On the 21st December, 2013, the daughter of a taxi-driver in Madhyamgram, Howrah District was subjected to gang-rape for the second time by the same criminals who had raped her on the 24th October. The complete negligence of the police and administration were responsible for this crime. In fact, the perpetrators were given protection by the police. This is apparent from the fact that they burnt her to death after raping her, but the local police registered it as a case of suicide. It was only after thousands of people demonstrated on the streets that truth of the murder was revealed.
On 21 January, 2014, a tribal girl was gang-raped by 13 residents of her village on the orders passed by the village panchayat to punish her for having a relationship with a man from outside her community. This heinous act was carried out on broad daylight in the middle of the village. The response of the police and administration were extremely unsatisfactory and it has now been established that members of the ruling party actually signed the documents of the so-called agreement drafted by the panchayat.
On 4th February, 2014, in an unprecedented act of political vendetta which has outraged the entire nation, a 27 year old woman and her mother-in-law (43 years) were gang-raped in Amta, Howrah District by 10 persons belonging to the ruling party. They were brutalised in an inhuman fashion. The involvement of the TMC members in the incident has since been confirmed by the police and administration.
On 14th February, 2014, a young 17 year old girl was chased by a well-known goon who is also a police informer and his companion on Broad Street in Kolkata. They caught hold of her, abused her, tore her clothes and attempted to rape her but she managed to escape. What is horrifying that this same perpetrator had been arrested for having raped her over a period of weeks last year after huge public pressure. Unfortunately, he was soon released because of police connivance. After his release, he threatened the girl’s family several times and finally assaulted her.
What is very shocking, Annaji, is the fact that the Chief Minister of West Bengal has one stock answer to all questions regarding the barbaric violence and threats that women and girls are facing in her State – that these are all politically-motivated. Also not a single police official has been held responsible or punished for any of these atrocities. This, as you know, sends out a very wrong message to those responsible for ensuring the safety of women.
We hope that you will understand the spirit of anguish and disappointment with which we are writing this open letter to you. We hope that you will re-consider your decision and that you will give up your intention of campaigning for Smt. Mamta Banerjee and her Party and lending them the respectability and prestige of your own reputation.
We are, yours sincerely.