| Dipali at her Phuliapara home. Telegraph picture
Sept. 30: Politicians could make the difference, they didn’t. Residents of a south Calcutta locality did — brought a sliver of smile on deaf-mute rape victim Dipali Basak.
Mamata Banerjee, then a Youth Congress leader, had paraded Dipali at Writers’ Buildings in 1992 to show the lawless state of Bengal. She sat on dharna with the girl allegedly raped by a CPM activist in front of then chief minister Jyoti Basu’s office.
Mamata made news but Dipali was lost in the swirl of politics. Months later, she gave birth to a child at an ashram in Dhapa, the city’s garbage dumping ground. Leaders were frequent at her little hut at Phuliapara in Nadia’s Shantipur then. No politician, not even leaders of Mamata’s new party, the Trinamul Congress, enquired about her after she ceased to be a political issue.
People living in Poddar Park Government Housing Complex recently came with pujo gifts to Dipali, once a pawn in the political chessboard. Two bags of new clothes were handed to her by 73-year-old Bibhash Dasgupta on behalf of the residents. It was a quiet affair at Phuliapara, a village of weavers.
Dasgupta, a retired PWD employee, does not lead a life of luxury with his ailing wife. But he had put politicians to shame earlier when he went to Dipali’s house and handed over his monthly pension of Rs 1,000.
The initiative of Dasgupta and his neighbours will probably make the Puja brighter for the face of lawless Bengal.
“Koto din amar meyeta pujote notun jama pore ni… Ebar or mukhe hashi dekhbo (My daughter hasn’t worn new clothes during Puja for years… This time, I’ll see a smile on her ),” said Felani, her mother.
Dipali and her mother make a few rupees spinning the charkha and sometimes begging. “I was moved when I first visited Phuliapara. I promised Dipali to return before the pujas. I have kept my word,” said Dasgupta.
This time, he wasn’t alone. Kanak Mukherjee, Shantipada Mukherjee and Shibaprasad Dutta were among his neighbours who came forward with help. They gave money and clothes for Dipali. “I had to refuse a number of people. It was not possible for this old man to carry all the clothes,” said Dasgupta.
Salwar-kameez and sari for Dipali and white linen for her mother, a widow, were in the hampers. “For the next year, they will at least not have to bother about clothes,” said Dasgupta. Besides, the residents of the housing complex gave the girl “pocket-money” for the festival. “I handed over Rs 500 donated by my neighbours,” said Dasgupta.
After Dipali’s nightmare was published in The Telegraph in August, two welfare organisations handed her Rs 4,000.