Women victims of horrific mass sexual violence in West Bengal have moved the Supreme Court (SC) narrating their horrific gang-rapes and sexual assaults by ruling TMC party members, and seeking an SIT probe into the violence and inaction of police.
As per a Times of India report, the women cited the pro-active action taken by the Supreme Court in post-Godhra communal riots cases in Gujarat and sought a similar court-monitored SIT probe into incidents of gangrape and murders that went on with impunity across West Bengal after TMC scored a massive victory in the assembly elections.
60-year-old woman gang-raped in front of 6-year-old grandson
“A 60-year-old woman narrated the manner in which TMC workers ran amuck after the declaration of Assembly poll results, barged into her house in a village in Purba Medinipur and gangraped her in front of her six-year-old grandson prior to robbing her household of all valuables on the intervening night of May 4-5.
She said despite BJP winning from the constituency (Khejuri), a mob of 100-200 TMC workers surrounded her house on May 3 and threatened to bomb it. In fear, her daughter-in-law left the house the next day. On the intervening night of May 4-5, five TC workers barged into the house, assaulted her, tied her to a cot and then gang-raped her in front of her grandson, the woman alleged in her application before the SC.
She said that she was found by neighbours in an unconscious state the next morning and was referred to the district hospital. She alleged that when her son-in-law went to the police to lodge an FIR, the police refused to entertain. She said TMC workers used rape as a weapon to take revenge, humiliate and silence political rivals in the state during the post-poll violence.
“While the history is replete with gruesome instances where rape was employed as a strategy to terrorise the enemy civilian population and to demoralise enemy troops, but never have such cruel crimes been committed against a woman citizen for her or her family’s participation in the democratic process. Not merely the said crimes were facilitated by the inaction of the state authorities/police, but what was shocking is post crime humiliation that the rape survivors were subjected to, for their perceived audacity in reporting the crime,” she said.
The perversity of the investigation as is being carried out by the local police can be inferred from the fact that while the rape was committed by five accused who were all named by the rape survivor, and when the rape is confirmed by a medical report, the police has deliberately chosen to name only one of the five accused in the FIR,” she alleged and sought an investigation by SIT/CBI citing that the accused persons are members of the ruling party.”
Minor Dalit girl gang-raped by TMC supporters and left to die in jungle
“A 17-year-old minor girl from the Scheduled Caste community too moved the SC seeking SIT/CBI investigation into her alleged gang rape by TMC workers on May 9 and shifting of the trial outside the state. She said that not only was she gangraped and left to die in the jungle after being dragged in there by TMC supporters, the very next day a TMC local leader Bahadur SK came to her house and threatened the family members against lodging a complaint. He threatened to burn their house and kill them if they did so, she alleged in her application in SC.
She said she was being kept in a Child Welfare Home and her parents are not allowed to meet her. “Such has been the conduct of local police/administration that instead of sympathising with her and family members, the police is pressuring her family saying their other daughter may face the same consequences,” she said and requested for an independent probe.
Woman disrobed, molested and rape attempt made while husband was thrashed
“Another women, Purnima Mondal, whose husband Dharama Mondol was killed by alleged TMC workers during the post-poll violence, told the SC that “such is the vengeful nature of the violence that that the applicant’s husband, who campaigned for BJP, was subsequently identified and assaulted with axes in broad day light on May 14. The present applicant was made to helplessly witness the assault on her husband and her brother-in-law, while she herself was being disrobed, grabbed and struggling to survive the rape attempt made of her body by two members of the same violent mob, which was led by a local elected representative. The applicant’s husband subsequently passed away on May 16.”
Purnima said, “The police was more concerned about pressurising the applicant and her family members into filing a weak complaint and finally succeeded in procuring such a complaint from the injured brother in law of the applicant. Chapra Police have lodged a complaint devoid of material details of the incident and suppressed the role of the elected representative, who was not only leading the violent mob which attacked the applicant’s family and gave orders to the members of the mob to attack and kill, applicant’s husband. It also does not take in to account or give any reference of the attempt to rape made on her body by the members of group which was led by the said elected representative, Kaalu Sheikh.”
“As the applicant was devastated after the incident, it was only after the cremation of her husband, that she went to the police station to make a detailed complaint but the police officer not only refused to record her statement despite she being an eye witness and a victim herself but also after abusing and threatening her forced the applicant out of the police station,” she alleged.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Seeing how police was refusing to entertain complaints in each of the above 3 cases, it just reinforces what grass roots activists have been telling all along: the few cases that have made it to courts represent just a tiny fraction of the true horror unleashed in Bengal since 2 May.
The vast majority of cases have gone unreported as police is refusing to file FIRs and actually jailing those who protest their inaction. As per HinduPost’s interview with Smt. Rakhi Mitra, WB BJP Mahila Morcha secretary, 170 women were gang-raped and 6126 women molested as of 9 May, i.e. in just the first week of violence.
A pogrom of unbelievable proportions has been carried out in West Bengal since 2 May, which to its eternal shame mainstream media has all but swept under the carpet.
Will courts act?
It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court deals with this new petition.
Many petitions filed in SC almost immediately after violence first started on 2 May were put on the back-burner by the SC registry. It was only on 25 May that a vacation SC bench of Justices Vineet Saran and B R Gavai finally heard senior advocate Pinky Anand, who had been requesting urgent listing of a petition against forced exodus of over one lakh people in WB due to state-sponsored violence after the assembly polls.
In the brief hearing, the SC issued notice to both WB government and Centre to respond to the plea, and refused to grant interim relief to people staying in camps saying it ‘cannot act ex-parte and has to first hear from both parties’.
The matter was listed for further hearing in the week starting June 7. But no news has emerged on the case last week, and it is not clear if the hearing was held or has been pushed out further.
As for the Calcutta High Court, on 11 May a five-judge special bench led by acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal expressed ‘satisfaction’ over the action taken by the newly formed Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal to restore normality after post-results violence.
“The steps taken by the state in bringing the situation to normalcy are appreciable,” acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal said during the hearing. “However, the central government has similar responsibility to maintain the law-and-order situation of the state after the poll results,” he added. The bench turned down a prayer by the additional solicitor-general, representing the Centre, to set up a special investigation team to probe the post-poll violence.
On 31 May, the Calcutta HC formed a three-member committee to ensure that persons displaced by post poll violence in Entally constituency are able to return to their houses. On 4 June, when Advocate Priyanka Tiberwal informed the Bench that the issue is rampant throughout the state, the High Court said those being prevented to return to their homes could ‘email their complaints‘ to the official email ID of the WB State Legal Services Authority’, or ‘file a composite complaint’ through lawyers appearing in the matter if they do not have access to technology or are illiterate.
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