The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rape slur on CPM unites Opposition

Cooch Behar, March 9: As Opposition parties joined hands to take on the CPM over the gang-rape of a housewife, the SUCI called a 12-hour strike at Ghoksadanga on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old woman accused nine local CPM activists, six of whom she identified, of assaulting her sexually at her Chheramari home under the Ghoksadanga police station early on February 22. She was alone with her three-year-old daughter, with her husband, elder daughter and mother-in-law away.

The victim said the police initially refused to accept her complaint, but did so a day later after medical tests confirmed the sexual assault. Only three of the accused have been arrested so far.

The CPM denied its men were involved in the rape. “The allegations are completely baseless and politically motivated. It’s an attempt to defame us before the panchayat elections,” said Cooch Behar district CPM secretary Chandi Pal.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said as much in Calcutta today. He quoted a “relative” of the victim as saying that the rape did not take place. He said none of the accused belonged to his party. “They were not even our supporters. How can they be described as our members'” he asked.

SUCI leader Kajal Chakroborty said they called the strike to highlight that “women are not safe from the CPM cadre”.

The women’s wing of the Congress, which met the victim at Chheramari yesterday, accused the police of looking the other way. “They are shielding the culprits,” said a district leader.

In a rare display of unity in the run-up to the panchayat elections, the Congress, the BJP, Trinamul and the Party for Democratic Socialism backed the SUCI bandh at Ghoksadanga.

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