The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has always been known for having a different take on rape. Even before the police had started investigating the Park Street rape case, she had pronounced that the incident was “concocted” to “malign” her government. Later, when a woman was raped in Katwa, Ms Banerjee famously said that it was a drama staged by “harmads”. On Monday, she again wished away the reality of the rapes taking place with frightening regularity all over the state. This time, she blamed the media instead of the harmads, implying that most of the rape cases are actually “exaggerated and negative news items” cooked up by the media in order to show her administration in a poor light. And even if some of the allegations of rape are true, this violence is only natural in today’s “open” society in which men and women interact freely — so concluded the chief minister. Her views on the issue recall those of the Trinamul Congress MLA, Chiranjeet Chakraborty, who had said that when women shorten their skirts to “entertain” men, they can look forward to getting molested.
In the topsy-turvydom that is Bengal today, anybody except the real perpetrator of a crime can be expected to be blamed for the offence. A victim can be accused of fabricating or bringing about her own rape and the media can be suspected of inventing cases just to show that the “entire state has become the land of rapists”. The situation would have been deemed risible if the issues at hand had not been so grave. Ms Banerjee’s words would suggest that a ‘closed’ society, rather than a vigilant administration, would be conducive to women’s safety. Such an opinion, recalling that of the khap panchayats, is doubly unfortunate given the fact that a female head of state is voicing it. And then there is Ms Banerjee’s notorious intolerance towards criticism that has been revealed time and again in her attempts to silence the media. Her government had banned certain newspapers from public libraries in what was evidently an effort to keep out those dailies that have been critical of the chief minister’s policies. Can Ms Banerjee escape censure by closing her ears to it? She need not worry about what the media are saying if she is confident of her performance. Ms Banerjee should realize that by lashing out against the media, she is repeatedly underlining her own failures.