What is the value of impression in a subject like violence against women? The chairman of the state human rights commission has said that women in this state are not tortured any less than those in Delhi, and sometimes the number of such incidents are higher. A Trinamul Congress member of parliament has called this assessment incorrect and has reportedly said that a learned judge such as the chairman is not expected to make such wrong statements. The rights commission chairman may have been suggesting that some kinds of torture, not all, exceed similar episodes in Delhi. If it is a mere impression, based on the cases he comes across and what the media report, how can it be proved wrong? Does the MP know all the facts about all incidents of torture of women, within the home and outside it, in both Delhi and West Bengal? That is an absurd question, for, obviously, no one does. A mixture of figures, from the police, the crime records bureau, from activists and non-governmental organizations, from local government bodies and so on add up to a picture. There is nothing black and white about it. Competing sums are the products of a political game, they have nothing to do with torture or the fight against it.
And suppose the chairman is wrong, what difference does it make to his argument? He was expressing the urgency that he feels must be brought to bear upon the question of women’s torture, and also the impatience he feels towards the public here. Unlike the protestors in Delhi, people — he thinks — are “sleeping” in this state. To be fair to the MP, he had not burst forth with his criticism, he was obviously asked a specific question about the chairman’s quantitative assessment. That is typical, exactly the kind of thing the chairman is talking about. Pick out trivial points of potential controversy, drive the issue as far from the subject of women’s problems as possible, sit back and have fun. ‘Sleep’ is hardly the word for it.