India: When the State is indifferent to rape, the people take the streets

[Increasingly, acts of protest and resistance are denounced or dismissed as “Maoist” by the the state.  —  Frontlines ed.]

When the ‘Maoists’ Took Over the Streets of Kolkata

Why did the Kamduni incident – the rape and murder of a young college student and the utterly insensitive handling of the issue by the West Bengal government and the ruling Trinamool Congress – spark off such a huge reaction to bring together a wide spectrum of civil society under one umbrella in Kolkata on 21 June?

Vol – XLVIII No. 29, July 20, 2013 Rajashri Dasgupta, EPW

Rajashri Dasgupta (rajashridasgupta@gmail.com) is an independent Kolkata-based journalist specialising on issues related to gender, health, democratic rights and social movements.Civil society members take out a procession in Kolkata to protest the rise in crime against women and recent incidents of rape in West Bengal. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

It was a hot and muggy afternoon on 21 June, when in an incredible display of public solidarity and defiance, thousands of people marched through the streets of Kolkata in silent protest. There were no political parties to manage the swelling numbers, no brandishing of political flags to claim victory for any organisation. Led by respected intellectuals, people poured in from all corners of the city as well as its outskirts to show their support and solidarity – elderly people, some with sticks and crutches; homemakers, for many of whom it was their first rally; working people who spontaneously got off buses or skipped work. There were students in large numbers with banners and placards, teachers, villagers holding hands for safety in an unfamiliar place, rights activists distributing leaflets, feminists with colourful posters, non-governmental organisation workers, actors, academics and journalists – all came together to protest the spurt in crimes against women in the state.

The protest was triggered by the gang-rape and murder of a young college girl Sheila (not her real name) in Kamduni village, Barasat district on 7 June and the insensitive handling of the incident by the state government. It was for the first time that the city, famous for its processions, witnessed an outpouring from such a wide cross-section of society, about an issue generally left to women’s groups and feminists to battle: the safety and security of women.

The rally of more than 10,000 strong was also a political expression of indignation against the constant bogey of “the other” raised by the ruling party to gag dissent. Suddenly, from one section of the rally, young men and women raised slogans demanding azaadi (freedom), startling this reporter since the word is usually associated with the Kashmir issue. For the people of Bengal that afternoon, however, the rallying cry of azaadi snowballed to take on a larger significance. It not only meant freedom of women from violence, but also implied the freedom of citizens to live without fear, the freedom to speak up, to question, and the freedom to protest. Since 2011, with the promise of paribartan (change) that had swept Mamata Banerjee to power in West Bengal, defeating an almost invincible Left Front (LF) rule of 34 years, the chief minister has silenced every question, protest or any whiff of dissent, real or imaginary, by dismissing it as a conspiracy against her from her opponents, whom she dubbed the “Maoists”. Continue reading

CPI (Maoist): “Condemn the arrests and torture of Maoist activists in Kolkata and Mumbai!”

COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA (MAOIST) — CENTRAL COMMITTEE — Press ReleaseMarch 2, 2012

In the last week of February 2012, the police have arrested activists of our Party including some senior cadres from Kolkata and Mumbai. On the specific intelligence inputs provided by the murderous APSIB, joint forces of police and STF of AP, Maharashtra and West Bengal have raided the shelters of our comrades in Kolkata and Mumbai suburbs and arrested at least nine comrades including two women comrades. Comrades Sadanala Ramakrishna, Deepak Kumar Pargania, Sukumar Mandal, Bapi Mudi and Sambhu Charan were arrested from Kolkata while Comrades Dinesh Wankhede, Aasimkumar Bhattacharya, Suman Gawde and Paru Patel were picked up from Thane in Maharashtra. Comrades Sadanala Ramakrishna alias Santosh (62) and Aasimkumar Bhattacharya (65) were the seniors among the arrested. Senior comrade Sadanala Ramakrishna has been working for the revolution for at least four decades. He has been ailing with serious health problems for so many years. A mechanical engineer graduated in prestigious Regional Engineering College (REC) of Warangal from where martyr leaders like Surapaneni Janardhan and Azad were emerged as great revolutionaries of their times, Comrade Ramakrishna sacrificed his bright life for the cause of liberation of the downtrodden.

Both the two women comrades arrested – Vijaya and Suman – have been undergoing medical treatment for some time staying in the shelters outside the struggle zones. Particularly, comrade Vijaya has been suffering from serious heart problems.

The police forces, better known for worst kind of cruelty, have been torturing these comrades mentally and physically in custody. They have foisted several false cases against these comrades so that they could be languished behind the bars forever. Continue reading

India: Resisting Media Attacks with People’s Media

(The major mass media in India has dutifully reported the unsubstantiated police claim that Maoists attack civilians on passenger trains.  When the media did not print the denials of those claims, the Maoists have taken other methods, as this news story recounts).

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Kolkata, June 05, 2010

Maoist banner denies rebels’ link to train tragedy

A Maoist banner was found in Kolkata on Saturday urging the people to foil the “conspiracy” hatched against the ultras by blaming them for the Jnaneswari Express tragedy that claimed 148 lives, police said.

Police said the banner was found hanging on the walls of Madhusudhan Mancha, a prominent cultural centre at Dhakura in the southern part of the city.

The banner, put up by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M Maoist), was written in red ink, stating the outfit was shocked at the May 28 train tragedy. Police hold the Maoists responsible for the derailment.

“We call upon the people to foil the conspiracy hatched against the Maoists regarding the Gyaneshwari Express tragedy,” the banner said.

On being informed by officials of the Madhusudhan Mancha, a large posse of policemen including senior officers arrived at the spot and removed the banner.