The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Women’s panel breaks silence

Calcutta, Feb. 13: Seven days after the alleged rape of women passengers travelling in two buses in Nadia, the West Bengal Women’s Commission called it a “heinous crime”.

In a statement issued today, the chief of the commission, Yashodhara Bagchi, said she was waiting for a detailed report from the district authorities.

“A team of commission members will visit the place where the incident took place soon after receiving the report,” Bagchi said. She added that they would make every possible effort to bring the culprits to book.

However, the commission refused to term the incident as “rape”. The statement said the reports the commission has received so far suggested some women and children were molested and, “possibly raped”.

The commission said it was ready to take depositions of the victims. If necessary, in camera, said the statement.

The panel had faced flak from different quarters for “keeping silent” on the incident. A major allegation was that it kept mum as some of its influential members owed allegiance to the CPM.

It was also alleged that instead of raising a hue and cry, the commission was trying to hush up the case. “As the main culprits in the incident were CPM leaders, it preferred to stay silent,” alleged Chandrima Das, a member of the Pradesh Congress Mahila Cell.

However, the statement said it had met on February 11 to condemn the incident. It had also sent a message to the Nadia administration, seeking information on the incident.

“Following the incident, women in the state feel insecure and afraid of travelling at night,” a commission member said today. “The commission has an important role in reinstating confidence in their minds.”

“The commission was quiet because it did not receive a detailed report,” she added.

However, sources within the CPM said the commission broke its silence after members like Malini Bhattacharya and Bharati Mutsudi were asked by the party to ensure that it took “proper damage control measures”.

“The commission should have conducted medical tests and recorded the victims’ versions immediately after the incident,” said a senior Congress leader.

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