It was a show of strength in a city’s collective hour of shame. The death of baby Shabana notwithstanding, it was business as usual for the Left Front women’s wings on Wednesday. The woman brigade of the ruling force hit the streets in large numbers with a march-cum-meeting that disrupted traffic in the city centre and denied any moral responsibility of rallyists in the Monday tragedy.
The death of six-month-old Shabana — due to the combination of a traffic standstill caused by a rally and a medical mess – was put down as “a mishap” on the path of protest to achieve larger socio-political goals by some leaders at Wednesday’s convention at Rani Rashmoni Avenue.
“We feel sorry for the little one who died under such unfortunate circumstances. It was an unfortunate incident, but we are not to be blamed for that at all,” claimed Rekha Goswami, secretary of the Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti, women’s wing of the CPM.
The rally, that forced police to impose several traffic restrictions at the city centre, was organised by four women’s groups of the Left Front to protest the recent court directive restricting rallies and also the attacks on Palestine.
Asked why they had organised the rally two days after the tragic death of little Shabana, Goswami didn’t miss a beat: “Rallies are being held since Independence… Wednesday’s meeting was pre-planned and there was nothing we could do to defer it... Also, our rallies are disciplined and our plans are conveyed to the people concerned in advance.”
There were some speakers who spared a few thoughts for Shabana, before focusing on the “greater cause” of criticising Justice Amitava Lala’s landmark judgment restricting weekday rallies. “We feel sorry for Shabana’s parents. But for the larger cause of the people, we will have to hit the roads,” said Shyamashree Das of Paschimbanga Mahila Samiti.
Accusing newspapers of making a mountain out of a molehill, Das said during every rally, emergency services are hit, but those were “small inconveniences” for the “greater causes” being pursued. Other speakers conceded a citizen’s right to reach his destination on time but added, “people’s movements are equally important.”