A rape is anything but a rape. Acquaintance with the multifarious subterfuges, pretexts, post-texts and excuses to minimize the crime of violation of women would not have prepared anyone for the enigmatic reasoning demonstrated at the young women’s convention organized the by the Democratic Youth Federation of India in Calcutta. Formidable female personages faithful to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) pronounced Calcutta a haven for women. But what was far more dumb-striking was the comment by a former DYFI leader, who said that the reports of rape were simply attempts to blacken the state government and the chief minister. Whether the redoubtable lady meant that women were turning up all over the state to report rapes that had never happened, or that the media, with characteristic black-heartedness, were inventing reports of rape is less to the point. It is rather the calm dismissal of the unspeakable misery, shame, hurt and fear of a growing number of women in order to make a political point that is completely shocking.
But the loudest voices will no longer be able to drown the truth. West Bengal, including Calcutta, has become a fearsome haunt of criminals known as eve-teasers out of misplaced paternalistic affection. It is true that the rise of public crimes against women seems to match the rise in crime in general. But that is only part of the story. There seems to have emerged in the city an ethos of reckless enjoyment that has as its core violence against women. For many young males from upwardly mobile, prosperous backgrounds, any woman out on the road is fair game, whether she is a girl out with her parents for dinner, or senior women out in a group walking home after work. A mishmash of cultures, a consumerist attitude, disposable cash for merry-making, independent transport have all contributed to this phenomenon, which is underwritten by a deep-embedded insecurity regarding the growing economic independence of women. The extent to which this recklessness affects even policemen has been tragically demonstrated in the Bapi Sen case.
Although there is no sharp demarcation, it would seem that the violent crimes in the districts are more obviously fuelled by the sense of political power, whether in Dhantala or Ghoksadanga. No political party is free of this taint, as the list of Dhantala accused has shown, but the CPI(M) is in an undoubted majority in each case. The attitude of the state government and its affiliate bodies shows a lack of sensitivity that provide the main clue to the rise in the graph. The administration evidently has a soft spot for rapists and molesters. These criminals have their uses, for the party and within the party, as do, of course, the police. The politicization of the police has resulted in the kind of corruption that makes brutal violence against women a commonplace in police custody, and abusive indifference to women’s complaints the routine in almost every station. It is the state that has perpetrated the greatest crime of violence. It has created a haven for rapists and molesters, where multiple rapes and gangrapes are just non-events with little bearing on the changing crime profile of the state.