Disrespect to dead teenage girls by West Bengal police

Condemn savage, abominable & shameful conduct of West Bengal Police towards the dead female bodies and repeated denial of violence on women by the State

 Rape West Bengal

Feminists in Resistance (FIR), a feminist group based in Kolkata, expresses condemnation and deep resentment at the brutal modus operandi that the State of West Bengal has adopted to tackle and bypass the public resentment sorrounding multiple incidents of sexual violence and murder of minor girls in the past few months.

Death of two teenage (17 & 15) minor girls, in a span of 4 days, in Kaliaganj of North Dinajpur and in Kaliachauk of Malda District on 22nd and 25th of this month, have led to public fury and agitation.  Both girls went missing a day before the corpse was found in a canal and agricultural farm, respectively. Missing person complaint in this respect was also registered with the local police station.

In Kaliaganj of North Dinajpur, the agitated Rajbanshi Adivasi Community to which the girl belonged, gathered around the corpse and had been protesting against the inaction on the part of local police. In order to take possession of the corpse for further forensic investigations and post – mortem, unanticipatedly two policemen were seen running while dragging the corpse of 17-year-old by arms, with heels touching the ground and clothes falling around. Two other policemen were seen running after. This highly unsettling visual of 22nd April was broadcast throughout the day on 24th April on local Television channels, with talk shows discussing the events in an utterly insensitive manner, further aggriveing the sentiments of the Community. The communal card too was played as the girl was befriended by a boy belonging to a different community. Irked, the public attacked and burnt the Kaliaganj PS the next day.

In Kaliachauk of Malda, in a manner similar to Kaliaganj, the moment the police of Kaliachauk found the body of the 15-year-old in the field closer to her house, it put the corpse on a white sheet and four policemen, holding four corners of the sheet, walked away with corpse, thereby not following any protocol to the extent of not informing family, identification, panchnama, securing the place for forensic investigation etc.

As a feminist group, we of Feminists in Resistance, are also concerned with this repeated pattern of inaction and cover-up that state has exhibited in dealing with such incidents of violence on women. Firstly, it trivializes such violence by tagging them as singular, isolated incidents, in attempting to paint WB as a safe haven by drawing comparison with such incidents as Unnao, Hathras, Gujarat, Bilkis Bano. Secondly, if the victim is a teenager, like in the said incidents, it has attempted to malign the woman’s character by signalling towards some romance aspect, to the extent the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too, on the pretext of not divulging the facts play, have indulged in such blame game. And most dangerously, any kind of access to and of the grieving family is definitely denied. A Police outpost will be posted in front of the grieving family’s house and all their movements will be monitored.

The above pattern is followed in Hanskhali, where a 14-year-old was raped and murdered, Tuhina Khatun of Burdwan who was violently harassed and most recently in Tiljala of Kolkata where a 7-year-old girl child was brutally tortured, raped and murdered a month back. FIR team has experienced this first hand when we had gone to conduct a ground report search and were prevented from engaging in any conversation with the victim’s family at Tiljala.

What is most concerning in all these events is how such murders that are happening in quick succession are being painted as individual crimes. The immediate political conflict incited through these incidents is quite suspicious, especially the BJP and Hindu right wing organisations infiltrating investigations, public agitation and creating a different narrative. In each case the Hindu right is making it look like a matter of individual crime and that is how it is being registered in police diaries as legal cases. It is easy to incite hatred over inter-faith and inter-caste relationships in society and turn them into political issues, where ultimately the sufferers are the couple concerned and their natal families. The State govt. has not only been utterly inefficient, it has been doing nothing to address the increasing communal polarisation and violence in rural and urban parts of West Bengal.

We demand:

a) Speedy and thorough impartial investigation and adjudication.

b) Action must be taken against the erring officials and uniformed officers be held accountable for their actions.

c) Install a proactive Child Rights Commission and Women Commission in State.

d) Those using such incidents to fan Hindutva aggression and making instigating statements to incite violence against minority communities needs to be held accountable for their actions.

Nisha Biswas

On behalf of Feminists in Resistance (FIR)

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