The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM’s rally ranks molested

Joynagar (South 24-Parganas), Dec. 22: Hours after the chief minister asked people to rise in protest against atrocities on women, supporters of his party’s women’s wing were stripped and molested.

The Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti members were returning last night from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s rally at Patuli, on the southern fringes of Calcutta, when their trekker was stopped and looted near here. Along with jewellery, the miscreants robbed the women of their saris.

Three SUCI activists have been arrested in connection with the incident. The CPM in South 24-Parganas has called a dawn-to-dusk bandh tomorrow.

Circle inspector of Baruipur Sanjiv Bhattacharya said the members of the samiti left the rally venue around 6.30 pm. A private bus reserved for the rallyists dropped them at Jiban Mondal Hat, 80 km from Calcutta.

From there, the team of 25 women hired a trekker to head home in the Kotulpur area of Joynagar, about 2.5 km away. There were a couple of local villagers in the vehicle as well. They had barely travelled a kilometre when the driver found the road blocked with trees. When the women got down to see what was amiss, it was 8.30 pm.

Within moments, a gang of 12 armed and masked men surrounded them. They aimed their revolvers at the women and asked them to hand over their jewellery and money. The valuables bagged, the miscreants grabbed at their saris. The molestation continued for 45 minutes. The driver of the trekker was beaten up.

“They snatched my earrings and Rs 700 from my handbag. Then they caught hold of my sari. All the while they pointed revolvers at us and we could not even shout for help,” said Chandrabati Mondal. She was too “ashamed” to recount what followed.

Local committee member of the CPM Madhu Pramanick, who was returning from the same meeting on a motorcycle with wife Subhra, was looted as well. As one of the miscreants held a revolver to Madhu’s head, others zeroed in on his wife.

The women, who still had more than a kilometre to go to reach home, barely managed to cover themselves with the clothes rejected by the goons.

In a replay of the usual blame game in the district’s politics, the CPM accused the SUCI of looting and molesting its supporters and the party promptly denied the charge.

“It is the handiwork of the SUCI. They knew our women supporters will pass that way,” said Jogesh Ghosh, the secretary of the CPM’s Joynagar-Kultali zonal committee. Shankar Debnath, an SUCI leader, denied any role of the party in the incident.

Superintendent of police D.K. Ganguly said district secretary of the samiti Chandana Bhowmick led a deputation to him and lodged a complaint that mentioned “outrage of modesty”.

What happened last night was reminiscent of the February 6 incident in Nadia’s Dhantola in which passengers of two buses returning from wedding receptions were looted and the women raped. Several CPM leaders are facing trial in the case now.

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