Kolkata, July 20 (IANS) "Chalo Delhi, call on the rashtrapati" this now seems to be the clarion cry for families and neighbours of alleged rape-murder victims in West Bengal, as they press for a CBI probe into the heinous crimes committed on their girls and women.
Earlier this week, people from three Bengal villages went to the national capital in two groups and met President Pranab Mukherjee seeking justice for the crimes against their beloved.
The residents of Kamduni in North 24 Parganas district and Kharjuna and Ranitala in Murshidabad district travelled all of 1,500 kms by the Rajdhani Express, courtesy arrangements made by Minister of State for Railways and Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury.
All three villages have been on the boil since the gory incidents with the locals protesting either against the insensitive attitude of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee or the administration's efforts to downplay the crimes.
Kamduni has been on the streets since the June 7 gangrape and murder of a 20-year-old college girl while she was returning home after appearing in an examination.
The anger increased when Banerjee visited the home of the victim after 10 days but lost her cool when she faced questions from some women protestors.
"Shut up," she shouted, and asked them not to play the "politics of the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist)". Later, she alleged there was a plot to kill her at the village and that the Maoists were involved in the protests.
Banerjee had assured her government would ensure the culprits got the death penalty within a month, but the case seems to be locked in legal battles, while the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) drew flak from a fast-track court for submitting an incomplete charge-sheet.
"We told the president about our demand for a CBI probe and speedy justice. He listened to us patiently and assured us he will do whatever he can. He assured us we will get justice. He seemed very upset when we related our plight," said a cousin of the victim after the 30-minute meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
"We don't want any compensation or jobs. We want speedy trial and punishment for those who did this barbaric act with my daughter," said the victim's father.
Mausumi Koyal, a young housewife who has played a leading role in organising the protests, said: "We have no faith in the CID. We have told the president we want exemplary punishment for the culprits".
A day later, villagers from Ranitala and Kharjuna met Mukherjee and narrated their grievances, demanding the cases be handed over to the CBI.
At Ranitala, the decomposed body of a teenager was found June 15. The family alleged that she was raped and murdered but Murshidabad police superintendent Humayun Kabir denied that she was raped.
The body of a married woman was found from an abandoned staff quarter of a health centre at Kharjuna June 23. The victim's family said it was a case of rape and murder. But Kabir ruled out rape, saying she was killed by her paramour.
"We have complained to the president about the insensitive attitude of the administration, particularly the police superintendent. We have asked him to ensure the matter was handed over to the CBI," said a Ranitala villager.
The Trinamool Congress was sharply critical of the villagers' mission to the president.
"Some brokers are being taken to Delhi to spread bad words about me," said Banerjee.
Her party ridiculed the protestors.
"There is democracy in Bengal. So people can go to the president, they can go to (US president) Barack Obama, as also the secretary general of the United Nations," said Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim.
( Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)