statesman news service
KOLKATA, 21 JUNE : Thousands of people, led by noted intellectuals, actors and theatre personalities today took part in a procession from College Square to Esplanade protesting the recent Barasat gangrape case and a spurt in crimes against women after the regime change.
“The protest is against the atrocities against women and not against any political party. The Chief Minister should assure the state that these incidents won’t be repeated and make sure the perpetrators are punished,” said filmmaker Suman Muhopadhyay, as he walked with the crowd.
“Rather than doing that she is politicising the issue. There should be a political will to bring change and not blame each other. A strong message should be conveyed to the society that injustice will be not tolerated,” he said.
Scattered among the crowd were former Left Front finance minister Ashok Mitra, poet and writer Shankha Ghosh, Samaresh Majumdar, Ms Swati Gangopadhyay, artist Samir Aich and Professor Tarun Sanyal.
The protesters ~ who also included students from different unions, women activists from numerous organisations outraged by sexual violence in the state ~ gathered at College Square from 3 p.m. and marched for two hours.
Some villagers from Kamduni, where a college student had been raped and murdered recently, sparking protests in the state, also took part in the march but said their numbers were limited because they were scared.
One woman from the village, Ms Tarulata Ghosh, said: “We want the culprits to be hanged to death. There were many more people who were about to come but we are threatened. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said we were in a nexus and supporters of the CPI-M. What more can we expect from her?” She refused to say anything more.
Although it was billed as a silent procession, some students from different universities and organisations raised slogans, demanding the government “make the city safe for women.”
Most of the actors and artists who had attended a meeting at College Square yesterday where concerns about women’s safety were discussed, stayed away from this rally stating that this procession might take on “political” hues.
Many protesters might have said that theirs was not a political protest, but there were plenty of harsh words for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"For the past couple of months these incidents have been taking place but the CM is still unable to take any concrete action,” said well-known painter Wasim Kapoor.
"If there is any anti-social activity she blames the Opposition. She should be sensible to take correct steps at the right time,” he said.
Actor Biplab Chatterjee said it was a “mass” rally. “We want a peaceful state. She (the Chief Minister) should not support anti-socials. This is not a political rally. It is the outburst of people. That’s the reason why they have joined this rally”.
Painter Samir Aich said: “The people are uniting against the undemocratic and dictatorial government. We have joined the march for uplifting the society’s morale.”
“I am here not as a representative of the Congress, but to condemn the heinous crime,” said Congress leader Nirbed Roy.
Poet Subodh Sarkar said: “I am here because I feel this is my duty as a poet, a writer and also as a common man. This is the time to unite against injustice”.
“The protest rally in the city today against the Barasat rape and murder is an indication that the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress state government has reached the middle of the end of its tenure” PCC chief Pradip Bhattacharya said. “The death knell for the Trinamul government will be sounded in 2014 when the Lok Sabha poll is scheduled," he added.
State minister Partha Chatterjee said the protest was “unwarranted”. The intellectuals who had taken to the streets after the Nandigram carnage were protesting against state-sponsored terror, but this time around the state government had been prompt in taking action against the perpetrators, the minister asserted.
“As such we are constrained to conclude that the day’s protest by intellectuals is actually politically motivated and it only helps the thoroughly discredited and discarded CPI-M," he added.