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Are Women Really Safe in West Bengal ?
|by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee|
Very recently the rape incidents perturbed Obama greatly. He looks quite nervous by the increase in the number of rape incidents in America and said, "Rape is rape". The idea of distinguishing among types of rape "doesn't make sense to the American people” and certainly doesn't make sense to him also. This is America but in West Bengal rape cases seem to occur more frequently.
In West Bengal the existing government came to power by shouting loud over the rape of Tapashi Malik but now the hasty and sporadic comments made by the Chief Minister who herself is a woman do not seem to reflect the deep empathy one is expected to hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape. The ideas that is expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.
One Trinamool MLA, who fights the rapists time and again on the Bengali silver screen, justifies rape by saying that women tempt men by their clothes. He does not tell what Tapashi Malik had worn during the time she was raped. Did the Left Front government of the time have nothing to do to save her? The Anglo-Indian woman who was raped in Park Street also invited wrath from the Trinamool leaders who dragged the question of her character: “ What was the lady doing at midnight?” That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims.That is intended to shame women. Victims accuse police of extortion in many other cases.
Where has the security system gone in the rule of the iron lady Mamata? Are the women really safe in West Bengal? In the last 15 days newspaper headlines screamed about three consecutive rape cases in broad day light under the very nose of police. Nearly five months after Kolkata’s Park Street rape case rocked Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal , the driver of a hired car raped a woman passenger in the city. In Howrah a newly-married woman is raped in connivance with her own husband. A rape occurred at Ketugram Burdwan, a rape occurred at Nivedita Setu and a lady who was put down from the Katwa-bound Amedpur Local got raped by some dacoits between Pachundi Station and Gomai Gram. In another incident of rape in West Bengal a physically challenged woman was allegedly raped by a junior doctor in a government hospital in Bankura district in last February.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has expressed deep concern over the reported case of sexual assault on a physically challenged minor girl. A commission is constituted for the enquiry. But like all other inquiry commissions things will end only in submission of report to the government. The culprits will not be punished. The rape victims accuse police of extortion. The rapists move freely on the open roads of Kolkata and yet the CM says that the rape cases are fabricated. It is really strange that each time Mamata Banerjee or some of her ministers continuously blamed the opposition for orchestrating a malicious campaign against her government. There may be some truth in the exaggerated statement. But this does not make the government free from all responsibilities.
The high number of crimes, in particular rapes and gang rapes over a short span of time in recent months clearly indicates that women are not safe in West Bengal which recorded the second highest number of rape cases in the country and the rate of increase in reported cases was twice the national average. Girls from the age of 7 to women of 72 were subjected to rape; this included housewives, working women, mentally and physically challenged women, and tribals; the incidents occurred at all times of the day and night in public places, government hospitals, homes, fields and everywhere. The rapists ranged from political party workers/elders and government workers, students to tutors, teachers, family members, robbers all of whom move freely on the open roads of Bengal.
The government seems to have nothing to do with the rapists. What is strange is that in this state a woman is the Chief Minister and her state had the second lowest conviction rate in the country. West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have earned the dubious distinction of leading a list of states where crime against women in 2011 was highest. With 7.5 per cent share of the country's population, West Bengal accounted for nearly 12.7 per cent of total crime against women by reporting 29,133 cases. Cases of torture of women by husbands and relatives also went up by 5.4 per cent from the previous year. 19.9 per cent of these were reported from West Bengal (19,772 cases). The National Crime Records Bureau figures show tha the highest crime rate of 21.6 per cent was also reported from West Bengal as compared to the national rate of 8.2 per cent.
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