Ranaghat Gangrape: Bengal Bursts into Protest

Since the installation of the RSS-led union government, our country has been witnessing a concerted hate campaign against and an unending series of attacks on minorities. West Bengal has also witnessed a spate of rapes accompanied by callous and sexist attitudes from the TMC Government. It is in this context that the recent attack on a convent school at Ranaghat and the gang rape of the septuagenarian Mother Superior in Nadia district of West Bengal needs to be seen and condemned. Whether the Ranaghat rape is an act of communal violence, or a gang-crime with some other motivation, the TMC Government is shamefully responsible for failing to prevent or punish it.

The gruesome incident took place on the night of 14th March. Apart from looting some valuables, the gang destroyed an image of Jesus Christ and raped the senior-most nun. Why did they choose her as the target, not the other nuns? The vandalization and the targeting of the senior-most nun suggest that the assailants had a grudge against the Church, either of a personal or political nature.

As other sisters recounted later, it was she who told the gang leader: my son, tell me what you have to and let the others go. She did not cry for mercy and faced the armed men alone, calmly but boldly. The cool, graceful resistance was something that the pack of cowards could not tolerate. They not only raped her but inflicted enormous physical injuries too.

Several days passed off after the incident without any progress in bringing the culprits to book. When Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the school after three days, the students, parents and others blocked the progress of her motorcade and wanted to know why the rapists were still at large. Ms Banerjee retaliated with threats and after about forty-five minutes the police dispersed the crowd with baton charge. Later, court cases were also filed against some of the protesters.

The VHP General Secretary Surendra Jain, has used the Ranaghat rape as an occasion to further vitiate the atmosphere with communal, anti-Christian hate, saying, “It is a Christian culture to exploit nuns. We don't do such things." In Haryana, following the attack on a chapel, the Haryana CM blamed it on ‘conversion’ carried out by the church! Once again, PM Modi remained silent on such statements by his camp followers.

The CPI (ML) and AIPWA organised a series of meetings and marches for three days (17-19 March) in different parts of West Bengal protesting against the utterly insensitive conduct of the administration and the vindictive attitude of the CM. In the Hindmotor-Konnagar region of Hooghly district a well decorated possession was held. In Ashoknagar and Khardah areas of North 24 Parganas, in BudgeBudge and Chorial areas of South 24 Parganas, in Siliguri of Darjeeling district and some other places processions, street-corner meetings, road blockades etc. were organised while in other areas including Kolkata posters came up against the Ranaghat incident.

Moreover, an impressive march was jointly organised by fifteen organisations including AIPWA, Moitri, Nari Nirjatan Protirodh Manch, Durbar Mohila Samanyaya Committee, Shramjibi Mohila Sangathan and others on 19th March to commemorate the International Women's Day. Marching from College Square in Kolkata to Dharamtala, some 2000 women voiced their anger against all kinds of sexual violence and harassment and demanded exemplary punishment for every single culprit. Naturally the Ranaghat gangrape became the main focus of the protest. A human chain was formed after the militant and attractively decorated procession reached Dharamtala. A cultural programme comprising songs, recitals and a street play was presented. A number of men also expressed their solidarity by participating in the procession and the cultural programme. The Central slogan that reverberated all through was: We Will Not Rest. "From Ten to Ten Thousand, We Will Hit the Streets Again and Again."

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