Barasat gang-rape: Protests rock Kolkata, web after Mamata’s village visit (Roundup)

Kolkata, June 18 (IANS) People protested on the streets of Kolkata, women government staff took out a march at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s seat of power, while the web users poured scorn on her Tuesday, a day after she shouted back at demonstrators in a village while on a visit to the house of a gangrape-murder victim.

Joining angry women, youths, rights organisations and college and school students, who held rallies and processions, leading lights of the civil society including Magsaysay award winner Mahasweta Devi and celebrated film maker Mrinal Sen urged the masses to take part in a proposed march June 21 demanding justice for the Barasat victim and against crimes against women.

Banerjee had Monday gone unannounced to North 24 Parganas district’s Kamduni village, the residence of a second-year college student abducted, gang-raped and killed by a group of youths June 7 when she was returning home after appearing in an examination.

However, the visit turned sour after a group of women asked her to talk to them and shouted slogans about the lack of security.

The chief minister lost her cool and screamed at the villagers “shut up”. She also branded the perpetrators of the crime as well as the protesters as “CPI-M people”.

In a rare happening at the over two-century-old state secretariat, the Writers’ Buildings, housing the chief minister’s office, women employees Tuesday marched down its corridors in silence, holding aloft placards that cried “We want justice” and “Shame”.

Activists representing Maitree, a network of women’s rights organisations and activists, took out a rally from the city hub Metro Channel to the Academy of Fine Arts where a large number of college students took part.

The Democratic Youth Federation of India, the youth arm of the opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), also organised a protest procession from Sealdah to Esplanade.

At Kamduni, school children took out a protest-march amid rains displaying placards decrying Banerjee’s “brief” visit” to the village, and raised slogans demanding speedy trial and criticising police’s “inability” to give protection to the villagers.

In a joint and hard-hitting letter, noted actors, social activists, filmmakers and authors urged the people to condemn the deteriorating law and order situation in the state, irrespective of their political affiliations.

“Not only the administration, but we (the common people) also have to strongly protest against what is happening in the state,” said the letter signed among others by Mrinal Sen, Mahasweta Devi, thespian Soumitra Chatterjee, poet-academic Nabaneeta Dev Sen and poets Sankah Ghosh and Tarun Sanyal.

Assailing Banerjee for asking a resident of Kamduni village to “shut up”, angry netizens lashed out at the chief minister and sternly told her to “shut up and do some work”.

A Facebook post read: “Mamata Banerjee is most irresponsible and useless chief minister of West Bengal. Why she is always so arrogant she never reply politically, always shouting. Recently she visited Barasat Kamduni Gram How she has re-acted with people, it cannot (be) accepted by any gentleman or gentle women.”

State Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mallick, however, claimed the “so-called protests” were orchestrated by the CPI-M and the Maoists to discredit the Trinamool Congress government and the chef minister.

“We are not paying any importance to the incident. No one can malign the chief minister in this way”.

But the opposition CPI-M ridiculed Banerjee, saying she was now “scared” to enter a village in the state and was only doing it “secretly like thieves”.

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