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Face of Bengal’s ‘lawlessness’ dead
- Victim at the centre of political storm dies with none to help

Shantipur (Nadia), May 29: The deaf-mute rape victim whom Mamata Banerjee had paraded at Writers’ Buildings in 1992 as a symbol of Bengal’s “lawlessness” while demanding the chief minister’s resignation has died of snakebite after years in obscurity.

Dipali Basak died in March in the courtyard in front of her hut in a Nadia village, her old and infirm mother unable to take her to hospital and her neighbours not bothered because they had a soiree to attend.

Her body lay in the courtyard of her hut for over 14 hours, far from Mamata’s campaign caravan, busy with the Lok Sabha elections.

Dipali lived with her widowed mother Felani, 75, spinning yarn on her charkha (spinning wheel) and earning Rs 10 to Rs 15 a day. Their little tin-roof hut at Phuliapara, a village of weavers, is the only real help they have received in all these years — it had been built by the panchayat under a housing scheme for the poor.

“It was an evening in March, Dipali was combing her hair and powdering her face with talcum borrowed from a neighbour to attend the musical programme,” recounted Felani, her hand on the spinning wheel that Dipali used.

“She had stepped out to pick up dry clothes from the line in front of our hut. Suddenly, she screamed and came home running.

“I heard her scream once, she ran to the courtyard and sat down… she was in pain, clutching her right heel,” Felani said.

The mother saw the deep wound on her right heel. “She was in great pain. I didn’t know what to do. I called some neighbours, but most of them were getting ready to go to the soiree. Some of them suggested that I watch her till morning,” Felani said.

Dipali passed out gradually. “I’m infirm and couldn’t lift her and take her inside the house. I sat beside her the whole night,” she said.

Next-door neighbour Bikash Ghosh said he came had come to know about the incident the next morning.

“We called an ojha (witch doctor). But he could not bring her back to life. We then took her to hospital where she was declared dead,” said Bikash, 35, a weaver.

No political leader turned up for her funeral.

In 1992, Mamata, then a Union minister in P.V. Narasimha Rao’s cabinet, had stormed Writers’, dragging the rape victim along.

In chief minister Jyoti Basu’s absence, she sat on the floor in front of his chamber demanding a meeting with him. After three hours of persuasion failed, police lifted Mamata bodily and took her away.

The alleged culprit, a CPM supporter, was not arrested and the case was not pursued.

As Mamata hit the headlines with the Writers’ episode, Dipali silently gave birth to a baby girl in an ashram at Dhapa, where the city’s garbage is dumped, off EM bypass.

Dipali was forgotten by Mamata and her aides.

The woman in her mid-30s passed away with an unfulfilled dream — to hold her child in her arms. She was never allowed to even see her baby lest she grew too fond of the child she could not support financially.

“We visited the ashram in Calcutta several times, but she was never allowed to see her daughter. She had recently asked me to take her there. But we did not have the bus fare,” Felani said.

In Dipali’s absence, there is no one to earn in the family. “I can’t operate the charkha properly because of poor sight. I don’t even earn Rs 10 a day,” her mother said.

Trinamul Congress state president Subrata Bakshi said: “The family did not contact us, nor did we. But now that we have come to know about her, we’d like to help her mother.”

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