- NL Sena
The first time I took notice of you was in the year 2006, when you were protesting against land acquisition in Singur for the proposed Nano factory. I was in the second year of my undergraduate program at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and was at a stage where, apart from gaining knowledge in my chosen field of studies, my worldview was gradually being moulded, influenced and shaped by my Left-leaning educators. I genuinely believed that Tata’s dream project would benefit Bengal and its people by resulting in more employment opportunities and subsequently attracting more investors, which I had then thought would eventually lead to a trickle-down effect – thus helping our economy as well as improving investor confidence in Bengal. In short, I was for the Nano Project and was rooting for it, until you were assaulted.
I clearly remember that it was on September 25, 2006 that you were assaulted by the police on your way to Singur. In video clips shown by numerous news channels, your disheveled hair and a look of horror post the assault angered and scared me – probably because I had never seen any woman being assaulted on national television before. Maybe it was the woman in me that was hurt seeing another woman being dragged, slapped, pushed and heckled – something transpired when I saw your plight on television that day. I felt your pain. I felt your helplessness. Above all, I felt your humiliation. My worldview started to change and so did my enthusiasm about the whole Nano project. I knew what happened to you was not right and was brooding over that fact till someone close to me mentioned that you had been even more brutally assaulted in the past. I found out that a Communist Party Of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) goon had hit you and fractured your skull when you were leading a Congress rally at Hazra crossing in 1991, and again in 1993 you were forcefully thrown out of the Writers’ Building by the police while protesting outside Jyoti Basu’s office.
I wanted to know more about you, and the more I read about you, the more I liked you. You came across as a woman who had struggled hard, with sincerity and conviction throughout your life. A sense of respect and admiration was slowly growing in me for you. In our patriarchal society, I saw you as an embodiment of women’s power, strength and perseverance. You were a fighter – the one who never gave up. When you became the first woman Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2011, my happiness and pride knew no bounds. With all your past experiences where you have proved your mettle; there was not an iota of doubt in my mind that as our first woman CM, you would be a trailblazer. I automatically envisaged you as our leader whose real strength would lie not on her leadership abilities alone, but by virtue of being a woman, in your ability to be compassionate, considerate, and above all, just and fair in dealing with all our problems, in particular; women related issues.
Now it has been three years since you came to power with absolute majority in Bengal and I am sad to report how your actions in these past three years have proven me wrong. According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 Report, Bengal ranks third highest in terms of incidence of crimes against women. What appalls me is not the soaring frequency of crimes against women during your rule, but your complete silence in instances of crimes against women in Bengal and your biased stand in favour of the accused, particularly if they happened to be from your party. You coming to the defense of a rape perpetrator in the Park Street Rape Case in 2012 and the subsequent transfer of IG Damayanti Sen as punishment for solving the crime, and implicating a Trinamool Congress (TMC) cadre, is what I believe emboldened all criminals, because I am pretty sure that many must have thought that as long as they are under TMC, Didi would defend them – no matter what. The brazenness with which your MPs, MLAs and even district leaders justify rape are, I believe, a direct outcome of your apathy towards rape victims. Had you even been a little considerate of these rape victims and chosen to defend them instead of choosing those who insist “rapes have happened in the past, are happening and will continue to happen in the future”, I am sure things would be very different for women in Bengal today.
Madam, Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States of America, taking onus of the fact that the responsibility of whatever happened ultimately rests with him, used to keep a sign with the phrase “the buck stops here”. In West Bengal, Madam, the buck starts and stops at your good office. The increasing instance of crime against women in West Bengal will continue to escalate unless you choose to put an end to it. Your complete silence on the rape and murder of a 14-year-old in Dhupguri a few days ago; and the heinous sexual assault, physical and mental torture and blackmailing of a first year student from Sikkim at Visva Bharati are all indicative of systematic malice and apathy towards the sufferings of women under your care. As a woman myself, who saw hope in your leadership, I am not only disgusted but also hurt that you who came to power on the plank of “Ma, Mati and Manush” (Mother, Soil, Humanity) have let down the very “Ma” who needed your support the most.
30 years of Left-front rule had damaged the economic and intellectual integrity of Bengal, and I am sad to note that your rule is damaging the very social fabric of Bengal that gave birth to giants of history like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ramkrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, and Rabindranath Tagore to name a few.
Madam, it is beyond my understanding how somebody who has lived through the horrors of physical assault, discrimination, gender bias, systemic indifference and apathy; and fought against it and converted all of that into building blocks for her political career is today unfazed by similar sufferings of other women, including children.
Someone has rightly said that “Hard times make you bitter or make you compassionate”. It seems that your past struggles and sufferings have made you so “rough and tough” that today there is no “mamata” left in Mamata Banerjee. Your insensitivity towards the plight of others, specially women, is not only shocking but is also very harmful to all of us. Maybe many within your party and even in the Opposition could have been emboldened by your silence, which they may see as tactical support of their actions from you.
But despite all this, I am a hopelessly optimistic person, who is still clinging to that faint small silver lining. Madam, instead of agreeing with someone who says “rapes will continue in the future”, I am eagerly waiting for the day when you will say, as CM of West Bengal, that “from now on there will be no rape or sexual assault in my state”.
Having said all this, I feel better now. I sincerely hope and pray that you will become the Ma that I had always envisioned you to be.
Rinchu Doma Dukpa