The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fissures in front over ‘gangrape’

Cooch Behar, March 11: In what appeared to be the first signs of a rift in the ruling Left Front over the Chheramari gangrape, agriculture minister Kamal Guha today slammed Anil Biswas for casting aspersion on the victim, saying the CPM state secretary’s remarks would “encourage the hoodlums”.

Addressing a news conference, the Forward Bloc leader said he would go to Chheramari tomorrow and meet the 28-year-old housewife, who lodged a police complaint accusing nine local CPM workers of raping her at her Chheramari home in the early hours of February 22.

The SUCI has called a 12-hour strike, backed by all Opposition parties, in the Ghoksadanga police station area tomorrow. Chheramari comes under the police station, blamed for refusing to accept the victim’s complaint initially.

The Bloc leader hailed the SUCI for “always calling strikes at the right time”. He said if he “found” that the gangrape had taken place, he would take it up with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The CPM’s Cooch Behar committee today changed the tune, saying the guilty must be punished. The party also sent a team of women leaders, apparently on a fact-finding mission, to meet the victim today. Another women’s team also met the victim’s parents at Paradubi village.

After defending the accused stridently over the past few days, CPM district secretary Chandi Pal said today: “We have asked the superintendent of police to find out the truth. The guilty, if proved, must be punished.”

His remarks, made at a news conference, came after Samiruddin Mian, a CPM local committee member and one of the main accused, turned himself in at the subdivisional judicial magistrate’s court yesterday.

Pal, however, criticised the Opposition for “trying to make a political issue out of a non-political incident”.

Referring to Biswas’ remarks questioning the chastity of the victim, Guha said it was “unacceptable that a woman with questionable character can be raped”. “It was not the right thing for Anil Biswas to say. It would only encourage the hoodlums,” the Forward Bloc minister said.

In the Assembly, the Trinamul Congress kept up its protests against the gangrape even today, demanding that the culprits be punished. Some Congress legislators also joined them.

“It’s appaling that a CPM leader and his party workers have raped a woman who belonged to the same party. It shows how criminals have invaded the ruling party,” Opposition leader Pankaj Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress said, adding that the party had already handed a memorandum to the chief minister demanding arrest of the culprits.

Banerjee held aloft a purported copy of the victim’s medical report in the House. “It clearly says that the victim was physically and sexually harassed or in other words raped.”

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