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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 20

Deterrence, CPM-Style

Friday 9 May 2008, by Sunanda Sanyal

Not much evidence remains of the alleged gangrape of Ms Radharani Ari because of the time lost in prosecuting the case. Still there should be an investigation into what happened and why no enquiry has been held. The appropriate authorities are the National Commission for Women and National Human Rights Commission.

The woman herself asks the Chief Minister of West Bengal: “How many times will your cadres rape me? The CPI-M men entered my house at about 2 pm (on April 14). I knew them. Well, I am Radharani Ari. I live in Nandigram, Block 1, Gokulnagar. (One day) March 14, 2007, changed my life forever. At about 2 pm, the CPI-M men entered my house. Honourable Chief Minister, I knew them all. They were Badal Garudas, Kalipada Garudas and Snehansu Das. They committed bestial violence on me. I fell unconscious. Much later my husband picked me up off a nullah… I gave police the three names of the rapists. But they didn’t enter it in their khata.” Ms Ari further tells the Chief Minister: “I talked to the CBI babus. I mentioned the names of the rapists to one officer called Balbir………. Finally, the CBI booked Badal and Kalipada. But do you know what happened to Snehansu Das? Being honourable, you may not know that in the forthcoming panchayat poll Snehansu Das is seeking election at the 167th booth of Gokulnangar Gram Panchayat (in East Midnapore) on a CPI-M ticket” (Dainik Statesman, April 20, 2008)

The CPI-M cadres did it again. In her own words: “This time on April 18 they entered our house at about 10.30 pm, after the CPI-M marchers had dispersed. They hit my husband and son, who fell to the floor. They carried me off. (Next morning) my sons Bapi Adhikari and Ajit Adhikari brought me home from a nearby paddy field. Honourable Chief Minister, I could identify them this time too. They were Snehansu Das again, accompanied by Gurupado Patra, Manik Patra, Purna Das, Prakas Das and Raju Garudas. Thirteen months and five days later, I had to be taken to Nandigram Hospital again. I don’t believe these goons will be punished. …. we will have to live at the mercy of your police and cadres. I know too you have no sympathy for the gangraped like us. Or else the person who raped me twice could not have sought election on your party ticket.”

MS ARI was transferred to Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial (SSKM) Hospital thereafter, where Saonli Mitra (theatre person), Aparna Sen (actor and director), Joy Goswami (poet), Subhaprasanna (artist) and Arpita Ghosh (playwright) visited her. At a subsequent press conference, Mitra and Subhaprasanna said the police should have taken action on Ms Ari’s complaint. They are right. A while ago a TV channel showed a teenager claiming to be raped, with the connivance of her own mother, by her stepfather. The police took the man into custody.

Ganashakti, the CPI-M mouthpiece, virtually called Ms Ari a liar on April 21. Headlined ‘Aggrieved father asks: My daughter was with me all the while. When was she raped?’, a report quotes Chittaranjan Das, Ms Ari’s father, as saying: “On Friday night she was with me. How come I don’t know of the rape? She had cooked up a similar story before. Now she cooks up another. On Saturday (April 19) I saw a number of Trinamul Congress (TMC) workers put her on a ‘van-rickshaw’ (a cycle-drawn contraption). ‘Where are you taking her,’ I asked them. ‘To the hospital,’ they replied.”

Ms Ari disowns her father. “My father is a CPI-M leader of the area,” she says. “For the past 30 years I have had no connection with him …. My children do not know him.” In any event, on her complaint, in disregard of her father’s views, police should have booked the alleged rapists and subjected them to a medical examination. For, as medical jurisprudence puts it, possible evidence of rape is obtained from marks of violence on the person of not only the victim but also the accused. So why weren’t the accused booked and subjected to medical examination?

Ganashakti (April 24, 25 and editorially on 26) quotes Professor A.K. Ghosh, Medical Superintendent and Vice-Principal of SSKM Hospital, as saying that “there was no rape on Radharni Ari”. Sujato Bhadra, a human rights activist, points out that, concerning rape, “Only the head of the Medical Board can issue a statement. Why is the Superintendent standing in for him? Is it to cover up an unpleasant truth?” He quotes an authority on medical jurisprudence as saying, “The medical officer should not give his opinion that no rape had been committed. (For) rape is a crime not a medical condition.” Bhadra is right. I find another authority, Dr K.S. Narayana Reddy, agreeing with this view. The Superintendent’s unseemly zeal in denying the rape can only speak of a cover-up. Therefore, not just the rape but also what prompted Dr A.K. Ghosh to deny it should be probed.

Ganashakti does admit that the doctors found “abrasions on the elbow and on the lower back” of Ms Ari. Why did the doctors rule these out as prima facie evidence of rape? Going by medical jurisprudence these might have been caused by “pressure on the gravel and hard ground”. Dr Reddy says: “The examination should be carried out (soon after the rape, as ) minor degrees of injury may fade rapidly and swelling and tenderness of the vulva may disappear in a few hours. (And) the possibility of detection of spermatozoa from the genital tracts also diminishes without delay.” And as Mitra and Subhaprasanna said, the allegation of rape by the woman concerned has to be taken as prima facie evidence for the legal process to start, not what her father says.

The CPI-M has long been using rape as deterrence against disobedience. Sukharanjan Sengupta, a veteran journalist says: “In West Bengal the
CPI-M has created a secret organisation consisting of a private army that includes a murder squad and a highly trained raping squad.” This is plausible, if you consider the rapes committed at Nandigram on March 14, 2007, in the presence of policemen. The CBI caught 10 of the rapists from the Janani Brickyard, Khejuri, and handed them over to the West Bengal Police, who set them free. Again Tapasi Malik, who organised a protest movement amongst the women of Singur against the land grab for the Tatas, was burnt to death to wipe out all proof of rape. The accused, Suhrit Dutta, head of the Singur local committee of the CPI-M, was remanded in custody. Even after Dutta confessed, the party called him an “asset”. As everybody knows, the CPI-M has forced Opposition candidates to withdraw from the panchayat elections with rape threats.

(Courtesy : The Statesman)

The author is a former Head of the Department, English, Belur Ramkrishna Mission College, West Bengal.

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