Where the ordinary stone-paved walls of a metro station become adorned with paintings by prominent artists, where Durga is worshipped for ten days in grand style for killing the demonic Mahishasur, where people welcome every new year by engaging themselves in nightlong stage plays, where a groom’s family is looked down at if they ask for a nominal dowry from the bride during marriages, where literature and films for decades have meted out strong assertive women characters like Devi Choudhurani, Bimala, and Charulata, it is there that rapes and sexual assaults have become commonplace occurrences. Kolkata, rather Bengal, takes its inspiration from Delhi and becomes deserted and unsafe for women at only nine in the evening when employees wait impatiently at bus stops after a long and tiring day and students come back home after their private tuitions get over.
It is in shame and disgrace that we bow our heads when once again a woman was dragged, gang-raped and dumped in the heart of the city at nine-thirty in the evening on Sunday. How many rapes and sexual assaults will have to take place to grab the attention of government and police to take immediate severe actions against the accused, and stand by victims unconditionally? When people ask for answers in despair, the chief minister reminds them of different gang-rapes that took place during the last thirty-five years when CPI(M) ruled Bengal, from the infamous Bantala incident way back in 1990 when a UNICEF official was raped and murdered to the 18-year old Tapasi Malik’s rape and death in Singur in 2006. The question is not who runs the government but when power authorised at the helm is dispensed to the local anti-social elements for satisfying their individual frustrations and desires and the police complies by refusing to accept complaints and act. The rape accused are often kin of party leaders as in the case of a physically challenged minor girl who was raped in July 2013 in Murshidabad.
It is indeed very sad that the City of Joy can no longer protect its women. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau show that West Bengal has unfortunately topped the list of crimes against women for two successive years, 2011 and 2012 with 19,133 and 30,492 cases, respectively. What is worse is the indifferent attitude and defensive attitude of the state towards incidents of rape, which actually acts as immunity for the accused. In February 2012, when a woman was gang-raped in a moving car in the heart of the city, the chief minister was quick to term the incident as concocted by the opposition and the police mocked at the victim unabashedly. Such is the fall from grace for Kolkata, the so-called place of culture and bhadrolok.