The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Concerned citizens must be feeling some relief at signs that the state womenís commission has decided to stir itself at last. Its inaction, silences, evasive statements and rebukes in reply to questions about the alleged molestation and rapes of women at Dhantola in Nadia had become a source of embarrassment for everyone who had trusted in the proactive and fair-minded role of that prestigious body. It would seem from reports that its investigations are now proceeding apace. Apart from the fact that the commission has spoken to at least some of the women who had been robbed and molested, it is now also acknowledging that rape actually took place, although the exact number may not yet be known. It is a great pity that medical examinations, if carried out now, will yield far less evidence than they would have closer to the time. But it is exceedingly important that the womenís commission, according to one report, has suggested that the atrocities on the victims were not perpetrated within the nearby school building, as had been believed, but in a field. If this is established, it would expose the arrests of teachers of the school as the policeís attempt to mislead the public by suggesting sectarian hostility.

Perhaps it is the commissionís indictment of the police that is most valuable, not only on the count of trying to suppress or erase evidence, but also on the counts of lax supervision, closeness to the criminals and the refusal to register complaints of molestation and rape. Although this focus does shift attention from the criminals and their affiliations to some extent, guarding the guards is an important function in this case. In echoing the chief minister about exemplary punishment, the chairperson of the commission has somewhat reassured an increasingly sceptical public. For it is not embarrassment at the commissionís earlier behaviour that was the most damaging. The feeling that anything can go in the name of the Party, that the most powerful non-party organizations are all in cahoots, was what alarmed most. By moving at last, the state womenís commission has contained this damage for the time being.

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