Cops at a Kamduni checkpoint talk to a person entering the village. Picture by Sanjib Chaki
Two checkpoints with guardrails were set up on Wednesday on the road leading to Kamduni with uniformed men standing guard and questioning everyone entering or leaving the village where a college student had been raped and murdered on June 10.
Police said the guardrails had been set up on Kamduni’s only thoroughfare to beef up security of the Barasat village. But residents see in the move one more step by the administration to keep an eye on the village that has been simmering in protest since the rape and murder.
“Kamduni is still mourning. We are at the receiving end of local rogues backed by the ruling party. But the cops at the checkpoints are treating us like suspects,” said Sanjit Mandal, a resident.
Mandal, who runs a grille-making unit at the village, 30km from the heart of Calcutta, needs to leave and return to the village frequently on his motorcycle for business.
“Each time they (policemen) are stopping me, asking me to take off my helmet and open the tool box of my motorcycle. I disclosed my identity to them but it didn’t work. They are behaving with me in a such a manner as if I am a suspect,” Mandal said.
Bhaskar Mukherjee, the additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, said the checkpoints had been set up as a “strategic and preventive measure to tighten Kamduni’s security”.
But Tumpa Kayal, the face of Kamduni’s protest against the government’s insensitive handling of the rape and murder, rubbished the administration’s claim that the guardrails had been set up to strengthen the area’s security.
“Nineteen days have passed since we lost one of our girls. We are surprised to suddenly find guardrails at two ends of our village,” said Tumpa, who had dared to ask chief minister Mamata Banerjee to spare a few minutes to hear about the villagers’ ordeal after she stepped out of the victim’s house.
The checkpoints were set up a couple of hours before deputy inspector-general (presidency range) Dilip Banerjee visited Kamduni during the day. One has been erected 100 metres from the site where the college student walking home from the local bus stand was raped and murdered. The second is barely 50 metres from her house.
Some officers at Barasat police station admitted that Kamduni’s security was not the top priority. “We are keeping an eye on all those who are entering or leaving the village,” said a police source.
“We are yet to know the main forces behind the villagers’ movement. The chief minister had to face an agitation here and the villagers are holding rallies even after her visit on June 17. We are here to see whether any outsider is organising the villagers.”
A day after Kamduni residents’ protest during the chief minister’s visit, intelligence branch personnel had fanned out across the village and tried to find out if outsiders were behind it. The chief minister herself spoke of the presence of Maoists in the area, an assertion Kamduni women did not take too kindly.
Women constables were seen posted on the metalled road in front of the house of Tumpa and her neighbour Mousumi Kayal, another face of Kamduni’s protest.
“Posting cops in front of the two houses will fulfill two purposes. The state human rights commission had asked the administration to arrange these two women’s security. We are following the commission’s recommendation and also keeping an eye on them,” said a police officer.
After his Kamduni visit, DIG Banerjee said: “I came here to oversee the security arrangements in the village.”