Calcutta, Dec. 28: Just when Mamata Banerjee was preparing to put the “sajano” year behind her, the chief minister’s worst blunder has been resurrected and made worse by one of her MPs.
Trinamul MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar today said the Park Street incident was “not at all a rape case” and proceeded to cast aspersions on the lady whose allegation of gang rape in February had prompted Mamata to term the complaint “sajano ghatana” (a concocted incident).
“If you are referring to the Park Street case, see, that is a different case altogether. That was not at all a rape case, it was a misunderstanding between two parties involved in a professional dealing between a lady and a client. This was not a rape,” Kakoli, who is also a doctor, told CNN-IBN today.
Ironically, the MP, whose husband is the state’s PWD and environment minister and a doctor, made the remark while commenting on CPM MLA Anisur Rahman’s derogatory comments on Mamata.
Several hours after the television statement, Kakoli told The Telegraph she stood by what the chief minister had said. “I stand by what the chief minister had said. Whatever the chief minister had said was on the basis of the investigation and the police report. I have to stand by what the official report was,” the MP said.
But the five people who have been arrested — the main accused is still absconding — have all been charged under IPC’s section 376 (2)(g), which deals with gang rape. Damayanti Sen, the then joint commissioner of police (crime), too had said it was a rape case.
Kakoli, a first-time MP from Barasat, said the Calcutta and Delhi cases were “definitely different”.
The chief minister, who is in north Bengal, had not publicly distanced herself from Kakoli’s comment till late this evening. Other Trinamul ministers directed all questions to the MP.
The lady who filed the rape complaint said: “Her (Kakoli’s) comment only makes me feel as if a sex worker can be raped and doesn’t have the right to protest.”
The victim had two messages.
One was for Kakoli: “Ma’am, I was very much rapedÖ. I do not know how you differentiate a rape when I say that I was raped. I feel, maybe, if I commit suicide tomorrow, you will understand that I was raped.”
The other message was for Mamata: “Ma’am, I need your support. If you show compassion towards me, no one will have the audacity to pass remarks like these.”
The contrast between the chief minister’s silence today and yesterday’s abject apology by Abhijit Mukherjee, President Pranab Mukherjee’s son, was striking.
Trinamul’s dilemma — at a time a CPM legislator has put his party on the backfoot by making outrageous statements against the chief minister — shows how the ruling party is finding it difficult to defend the indefensible.
Unlike Abhijit, Mamata had turned her back on several opportunities to admit her initial mistake — a hazardous stand in the digital era with archival memory that can be refreshed and replayed in no time.
Educationist Sunanda Sanyal said: “It (Kakoli’s comment) is most unfortunate. It is in line with the chief minister’s ‘sajano ghatana’ remark.”
He added: “When we see every politician devoting two minutes in a five-minute speech to lauding the chief minister or repeating what she believes, it is evident that there’s autocracy running within the party.”
Saswati Ghosh, a member of women’s rights network Maitree, saw a dangerous trend. “This goes to show that they are demarcating the women into two, those who can be protected and those who can’t. That is dangerous. Just like we’re condemning Anisur, we’re also condemning Ghosh Dastidar’s remark because it will only encourage more people to violate women.”
Actor Koushik Sen said: “Maybe Kakoli should realise that no one, even if that person is a sex worker, can be raped.”