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CPM raises protest pitch

The death of the gang-raped teenager has given the beleaguered CPM a chance to up the ante against the Trinamul government, though questions have been raised over propriety of the politics over a tragedy.

Citu, the CPM’s trade union wing, organised a march from the organisation’s headquarters off AJC Bose Road to the Dorina crossing at Esplanade. The 10,000-odd marchers did not raise slogans but many carried banners that screamed “Dhik, dhik, dhik (Shame, shame, shame)”.

Some members of the civil society, including actress-director Aparna Sen and painter Samir Aich, also hit the streets to protest the death, which has drawn the attention of the National Commission for Women. Sources said commission chairperson Mamta Sharma has sought a report on the incident from the government.

CPM sources said they have plans to organise protests across the state and launch an attack on the government over the “worsening” law and order situation.

The CPM’s move to use a tragedy in its attempt to regain some lost ground stands in contrast to the way it had criticised the politics over bodies Mamata Banerjee had unleashed as an Opposition leader.

In 2010, after nine people had been killed in a firing by CPM cadres in West Midnapore’s Netai, Mamata ordered that the bodies be brought to Calcutta. The bodies were lined up at Esplanade for public viewing, triggering protests by the CPM.

During the Singur movement, Mamata had made it a point to highlight the death of Tapasi Malik, an activist of the Trinamul-backed Save Farmland Committee who was raped and burnt alive allegedly by CPM men, at all her rallies. She would ask Tapasi’s father to narrate the tragic end of his daughter at the rallies.

“Our party doesn’t approve of the politics over bodies. But the reality is Mamata found success by capitalising on deaths. Why should we sit idle if such incidents happen?” asked a CPM state secretariat member who refused to be named.

He added that the series of events that led to the girl’s death was “unheard of”. “The girl was gang-raped twice and the family was terrorised. If such an incident does not draw protests from the Opposition, what else will? Besides, there are questions over the role of police and the government owes an answer,” said a leader.

Wrapped in the argument over what an Opposition party should do under such circumstances is a desperation to attack Trinamul, which has had a clean track record despite controversies like the Saradha default case. Ever since losing power to Trinamul in 2011, the CPM’s attempts at making a comeback have drawn a blank.

“For us, the Madhyamgram incident is a big issue. With the Lok Sabha polls three-four months away, we have no choice but to launch a campaign and try to turn public opinion against Mamata,” a CPM leader said.

Some in the CPM pointed out that making this a political issue was a “compulsion of sorts’’ as any move otherwise would have irked the cadres.

The leader of the Opposition, Surjya Kanta Mishra, clarified the party’s stand: “It is being alleged that we are playing politics with death. But if it takes politics to counter such threats to our social order, then we will bring politics to the table. We will not take this quietly. We will make ourselves heard in Calcutta, in Bengal, in Delhi and in the rest of the country.”

An unfazed Trinamul leadership, however, accused the Opposition of trying to politicise a tragic incident. “The Opposition is trying to make political capital out of a tragedy to mislead the people. This is unfortunate,” Trinamul MP Mukul Roy said.

The Congress, too, has seized on the issue, demanding a CBI probe and announcing a dharna at the foot of the Gandhi statue on Mayo Road on Thursday.

Police U-turn in death after gang rape

The parents of the victim (second and third from left) come out of Raj Bhavan after meeting the governor
The father and the mother with their daughter’s body at Nimtala crematorium
A wreath to be placed on the body at the crematorium.Pictures by Bhubaneswarananda Halder