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Politics, protests and grieving parents

Mitra sorry but slams politics over body

Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra issues a statement expressing regret over the tragedy

Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra on Thursday expressed “deep regret” over the tragedy and offered all help to the family of the 16-year-old who had been raped twice and later died of burns.

“We express our deep regret over the death of the little girl. We share the grief of the family…. We reiterate our commitment to zero tolerance to sexual violence,” Mitra said at Nabanna.

“The government and the administration have stood by the family. We have tried to provide whatever they sought, including all co-operation for the cremation. Any help they need, financial or otherwise, we will provide.”

Home secretary Basudeb Banerjee, director-general of police G.M.P. Reddy and city police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha stood beside Mitra while he made the statement.

The chief secretary denied charges of medical negligence and said a six-member medical board had been monitoring the girl’s condition at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, where she was admitted with burns on December 23. The girl’s family had alleged that she had been denied proper treatment at the hospital.

She succumbed to her burns on Tuesday and was cremated on Thursday.

The chief secretary also said the accused in the “first atrocity” on the girl were arrested within five days of the incident and “chargesheeted” within 55 days.

Senior Trinamul leader Mukul Roy had on Wednesday said the Opposition was trying to “politicise” the death of the girl. Echoing Roy, chief secretary Mitra said at Thursday’s news conference: “We strongly deplore the tendency to create politics over a dead body.”

As the chief secretary did not take any questions, he could not be asked about the politics over dead bodies that Mamata Banerjee had unleashed as Opposition leader to embarrass the CPM government.

Mamata had lined up bodies of the Netai firing victims at Esplanade in 2010. Even now, family members of victims of political clashes during the Left Front rule are standard features at major Trinamul events.

The chief secretary’s comments drew a sharp response from Opposition parties.

“We are politicians and we will do politics. But it is not the business of the chief secretary to do politics by making such statements,” said Surjya Kanta Mishra, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

The CPM and the Congress have vowed to carry on with protests, alleging that some local Trinamul leaders were trying to shield the accused and terrorise the girl’s family in collusion with the police.

Several frontal organisations of the CPM and the state unit of the Congress have lined up protests over the next few days to turn the heat on the state administration.

The response of the Bengal government stood in sharp contrast to what the government of Bihar has done for the victim’s family, said Citu leader Subhash Mukherjee.

Earlier in the day, the Bihar government had announced Rs 1 lakh compensation for the girl’s family.

Under instructions from Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, the director-general of Bihar police, Abhayanand, spoke to the victim’s family members last night.

G.S. Gangvar, an inspector-general of Bihar police, reached Calcutta and spent 45 minutes with the girl’s parents on Thursday evening.

“I have been told to submit a report to the Bihar government about what has happened to the family. I have heard them out,” said Gangvar.

FAILURE SPARKS A flame

On the eve of Mamata Banerjee’s Tele Academy Award, scholars, writers, actors and artistes gathered in front of the Academy of Fine Arts on Thursday evening to protest the “failure” of the government and police to avert incidents of rape across the state.
The immediate provocation of the gathering was the death of a 16-year-old girl who had been raped twice in Madhyamgram. Among those present at the rally were painter Samir Aich, Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra (arrested in April 2012 for circulating online a cartoon lampooning the chief minister); educationist Sunanda Sanyal; former Rabindra Bharati University vice-chancellor Subhankar Chakraborty; actors Masud Akhtar, Chandan Sen and Debdoot Ghosh; and others.
Picture by Amit Datta

Some of the faces that had protested the rape and murder of Tapasi Malik in Singur have gone missing for obvious reasons. It’s good to see people going places with their work… they need to come out and protest what is wrong, irrespective of political affiliations.

It’s our responsibility to continue this fight.

Samir Aich