A 14-year-old teen was allegedly gangraped and forcefully cremated in West Bengal recently. The main accused in the case is the son of a Trinamool Congress Party leader, who was arrested by the police on April 11. In wake of the incident West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC head Mamata Banerjee, instead of promising justice to the girl’s family, raised questions on the legitimacy of the allegations against the son of one of her party leaders. “Was she pregnant or had a love affair? Have they enquired?” she asked.
The 14-year-old girl was a class 9 student, hailing from Hanskhali. The girl went to a birthday party on April 4, organised by TMC panchayat member Samarendra Gayali’s son Brajagopa. The girl passed away the very next day, apparently due to excessive bleeding. Her parents cremated the body on the evening of her death, without a death certificate. Later on April 9, the parents of the deceased girl lodged a complaint against the politician’s son, accusing him of gangrape and murder.
Investigation into the case has begun and the politician’s son, who is in his 20s, has been arrested by the police. The police are also on the lookout for other men who were allegedly involved in the crimes against the minor.
Mamata Banerjee rape remark
Speaking on the alleged gangrape case on Monday, Banerjee said, “This story they are showing that a minor has died due to rape, will you call it a rape? Was she pregnant or had a love affair? Have they enquired? I have asked the police. They have made arrests. I was told the girl had an affair with the boy.”
Banerjee further asked why did the family cremate the girl so hurriedly and then filed the complaint after almost five days. “The girl died on 5th and police came to know on 10th. If she died on April 5 and if there is a complaint, then why did they not go to the police on the day of the incident? They cremated the body! Where will the police get the evidence?”
What kind of message does it send to women in the state of West Bengal when the state’s Chief Minister puts party above due process, especially in such a sensitive case?
This incident reminds me of a reputed leader’s comment on the anti-rape laws of India when he said “boys will be boys. They commit mistakes. Will you hang them for it?” Whenever a crime against a woman hits headlines, it becomes more a topic of political conflict than of injustice. Leaders are bent on preserving their parties, no matter what it requires. They readily take the road of character-assassinating women without thinking about the message that it will send to society that always finds it easier to blame women rather than men.
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If politicians themselves start blaming women for being raped, how will the patriarchal society ever stand up for women? If politicians cannot understand the meaning of consent and justice to women, then how can we expect that from the common public?
Banerjee seems to be forgetting that the girl was a minor and thus even if she had a “love affair” with the boy, who was much older than her, then her sexual consent goes null and void. Besides, the family has alleged that the girl was gangraped on the night of April 4, even if she had a relationship with the main accused, it doesn’t prove that the crime didn’t take place. Nor does her alleged love relationship recuse the main accused of perpetrating the sexual crime.
Why has Banerjee so openly cast doubt on the gangrape allegations when an investigation into the matter is underway? Does she not realise that her statement could end up discouraging numerous survivors of sexual crimes and their families from seeking legal action? What kind of message does it send to women in the state of West Bengal when the state’s Chief Minister puts party above due process, especially in such a sensitive case?
A sexual encounter is a crime if it is conducted without the consent of the woman. It doesn’t matter whether the woman was in a relationship with the rapist or not.
Banerjee also pointed out the fact that in her state there is freedom for boys and girls to love. Well, applause on that. But dear chief minister, the freedom to love is different from the freedom to harass, abuse or assault. You cannot just blanket a serious crime like gangrape by labelling it a love affair. Being in love or being pregnant before marriage doesn’t give you the licence to character assassinate a woman and hence justify the crime against her.
Rape is a crime. It doesn’t depend on whether the woman was in love, was pregnant or was “characterless.”
The views expressed are the author’s own.