Civil society in Kolkata protests rapes, atrocities

Kolkata, June 21 (IANS) Members of civil society, rights organisations and various women's fora Friday marched in large numbers through the streets of Kolkata protesting atrocities on women and a spate of rape cases in West Bengal recently.

Poets, painters, authors, film and theatre personalities, singers, social activists walked alongside thousands of common people decrying the incidents of sexual violence and the "insensitive" reactions of the Trinamool Congress regime of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Poet Sankha Ghosh, painter Samir Aich, theatre personalities Rudraprasad Sengupta, Suman Mukhopadhyay - who had been leading figures of the protests against the alleged police and CPI-M atrocities in East Midnapore district's Nandigram in 2007-08 - were among those who spearheaded the huge rally from College Square to Metro Channel at Esplanade, about three km away.

The protests against the Nandigram police firing during the erstwhile Left Front rule on March 14, 2007, and the alleged CPI-M atrocities in November that year triggered widespread protests and the civil society rallied against the then government.

The Nandigram protests are believed to have played a major role in the ouster of the Left Front and the installation of Banerjee as the chief minister.

Nonagenarian film maker Mrinal Sen, among the conveners of the march, could not participate due to his advanced age but expressed solidarity through a letter.

"This protest is not only against atrocities on women, but also against the misdeeds of the government and its tendency to browbeat people," said Sen.

Many political figures also joined the protests, sans party flags. Among them were Congress' Nirbed Roy, and former state finance minister Ashok Mitra. One-time Maoists Ajijul Haq and Asim Chatterjee were also present.

Actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty, writer Amit Chaudhuri, painter Wasim Kapoor, film director Tarun Majumdar, womens' groups like Sramjeebi Mohila Samiti, the Paschim Banga Khetmajur Samiti, students and teachers of leading city colleges, also joined in the rally, which swelled in numbers as it moved forward.

A number of rape victims and their families from various corners of the state also took part.

The gang-rape-murder of a college girl from Kamduni village in North 24-Parganas district June 7 acted as the trigger for the mammoth rally.

Chief Minister Banerjee visited the village Monday, but ended up shouting at women protesting against the incident and seeking to talk to her. An enraged Banerjee screamed "shut up" at the women and called them Maoists and CPI-M activists, drawing flak from the civil society, media and the opposition.

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