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Poll before safety for Trinamul rally

Around 3,000 women activists from Trinamul, led by a minister, a deputy mayor, a municipal chairperson and other senior leaders, hit the street on Monday, choking traffic in central Calcutta. The cause: not justice for the girl gang-raped and brutally murdered in Barasat or safety of women in the city but timely panchayat elections.

Many of the commuters stuck in the traffic snarl found the reason for the protest more annoying than the rally itself.

“I thought it was natural for women, irrespective of political leaning, to feel angry about the rape of the college student in Barasat. But I am shocked at their complete disconnect with reality,” said Arpan Pal, waiting to hail a cab at the Exide crossing on AJC Bose Road.

Minister of state for law Chandrima Bhattacharya, who was part of the rally, said the panchayat election was also an important issue.

“District leaders visited the girl’s family and today chief minister Mamata Banerjee also visited them. And why only the Barasat rape, we condemn all such incidents. But people in the rural areas also want the elections. We have to think about that too,” she said.

Others who joined the rally include trade union leader Dola Sen, deputy mayor Farzana Alam and Bidhannagar Municipality chairperson Krishna Chakraborty.

The protesters carrying party flags gathered in front of MP Birla Planetarium around 2.15pm and proceeded along JL Nehru Road, AJC Bose Road, Camac Street and Shakespeare Sarani.

Police had to shut down the south-bound flank of JL Nehru Road and the east-bound flank of AJC Bose Road to accommodate the rallyists. On Camac Street, one flank was cordoned off with mobile barricades and the AJC Bose Road-bound traffic was squeezed into a narrow lane.

Women activists in the city expressed dismay at the “misplaced priorities” of the ruling party. “Women in the state would have felt a little safer had the protesters demanded security for women and zero tolerance for any violence against them in the panchayat polls where 50 per cent seats have been reserved for women,” said Saswati Ghosh, activist and professor.