Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, the so-called champion and benefactor of the masses, rode to the seat of power in West Bengal riding on a huge wave of people’s mandate, a major chunk of which comprised women voters.
But even before, 11 hours to be precise, the lady from Kalighat, revered as a mother figure by many, took oath as chief minister for the third consecutive time on May 5, a 50-year-old-plus mother and widow and a member of the BJP Mahila Morcha WB, was allegedly gang-raped by Trinamool Congress workers belonging to the Muslim community.
The incident occurred on May 4 midnight at a place called Baratala in Khejuri under the Purba Medinipur district’s Kathi sub-division. The place is considered as the gateway to Nandigram, the contentious seat that Mamata Banerjee lost to her protégé-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari in the 2021 Assembly elections.
A video clip surfaced of the distraught rape victim, accompanied by her daughter, sitting over a drain on the premises of a hospital. When police and paramilitary personnel present on the scene tell her to narrate the incident, the incoherent woman says that she has been gang-raped. She keeps on repeating: “Aami aar Hindu noi. Aami kaake mukh dekhaibo? Aami aar Hindu noi (I am no longer a Hindu, how would I show my face to people?)”
The incident incensed unrest in Khejuri and BJP levelled allegations that the accused TMC criminals had even tried to poison the widow after raping her. Women BJP workers blocked the Khejuri-Hedia state highway. A big police force had to intervene. The BJP Mahila Morcha even held a demonstration against TMC candidate from Khejuri, Partha Pratim Das.
When Ewoke.TV called up Khejuri police station officer-in-charge (OC) Krisnendu Pradhan, the officer seemed evasive.
The Khejuri OC said: “Details cannot be disclosed over the phone.”
But the officer said one person had been arrested. On seeking the name, he hesitatingly told the reporter to take the details from the district control or the East Medinipur superintendent of police (SP). When told that the new SP was yet to take charge, the OC said that the accused had been produced in court. He even refused to give the number of the investigating officer.
The exchange with the OC clearly indicated that he had instructions from higher-ups to suppress the case.
When Ewoke.TV tried to get a neutral view of the incident by calling up CPM leader and candidate from Khejuri Assembly constituency Himangshu Das, he said (2.38) Baratala has been a hotbed of crime since 1998. Murders and rapes are commonplace incidents there. A road through Tekhali Bazaar connects to Chandipur. Criminals take that road and congregate at Baratala. The TMC has patronised those criminals, who run a reign of terror and target members of opposition political parties. A CPM party member was murdered on August 4, 2020.
Mr Das admitted that families like the one that the victim belongs to were CPM supporters once. They purportedly switched to the TMC and then the BJP.
But Mr Das assured the reporter that he would dig out the details of the families if he was given the names of the accused.
On further inquiry, Ewoke.TV found out from its sources that the man arrested was one Ara, a known criminal and a resident of Nandigram. He was produced in a Kathi court on Friday. Ara used to work for the TMC till before the elections. The BJP allegedly used Ara during the polls. But after TMC rode to power in Bengal, Ara again switched allegiance back to the TMC and has been spreading terror.
Bengal has been sucked into a vortex of post-poll violence since the Assembly elections results were declared on May 2. BJP workers, their families and party offices are being targeted by the TMC, forcing them to flee to as far as Assam.
The CM has been in the denial mode, while a central team has rushed to the state to take stock of the situation.