Mamata shouts at Barasat anti-rape protestors

Kolkata, June 17 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's belated bid to soothe the family of a murdered gang-rape victim in North 24 Parganas Monday turned sour when she lost her cool after facing noisy protests from villagers.

Banerjee rebuked protestors as "CPI-M people" when some women shouted slogans about the lack of security while she was leaving after visiting the gang-rape victim's family at Kamduni village near Barasat, 25 km from here, 10 days after the incident.

She even called the perpetrators of the crime as Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) patronised goons.

"Stop this CPI-M politics. I know you all are their people and even those who have been arrested for the gang-rape are CPI-M people. These goons enjoy the support of the CPI-M," Banerjee said.

She assured that her government would seek the death penalty for the accused and the case would be fast-tracked. However, the victim's family and villagers who have been protesting ever since the incident seeking the chief minister's visit, were left complaining about not being allowed to apprise Banerjee of their grievances.

"She enquired about my health, but before I could say anything she left. What's the use of her visit if the man who has lost his dear daughter in such a tragic manner cannot state his grievances," the victim's father, a mason, said.

"We have been protesting all these days, wanting to talk to her. But today (Monday), when she visited, she did not allow us to talk to her. Instead, she called us CPI-M people. We have nothing to do with politics," a woman villager said.

Banerjee's outburst at the protestors attracted severe rebuke from society and the CPI-M alike.

"Criminals have only one colour: black. They are neither red nor green. It is not desirable for the chief minister to give political colour to such heinous criminals," said social activist Bolan Ganguly.

"Mamata Banerjee blaming CPI-M for the Barasat rape is callous and disgusting. The blame game over the incident is completely preposterous," CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said.

Banerjee blamed the erstwhile Left Front regime for the rising instances of crimes against women and claimed her government was the number one in the country in taking action against criminals.

"The chargesheet will be submitted before the court within 15 days. The trial will be fast-tracked to ensure the perpetrators are punished within a month. The administration is working to ensure the culprits are given the death penalty," said Banerjee.

The CPI-M welcomed Banerjee's decision to fast-track the trial, but questioned the government's ability to prevent crimes with the state witnessing a spate of rapes and murders in recent times.

"What is her government doing to prevent the deteriorating law and order? In the last few days, four rapes and murders have happened," Marxist leader Surjya Kanta Mishra said.

The second-year college student was abducted, raped and killed by a group of youths June 7 when she was returning home after appearing in an examination in Barasat in North 24 Parganas district.

Eight people have been arrested for the crime.

The incident created a furore with political parties, rights organisations and women's groups criticising the Banerjee administration for its failure to curb crimes against women.

The brutal crime was closely followed by the National Crime Records Bureau's latest report which put Bengal atop the chart with regard to crime against women. As many as 30,942 such incidents were reported in 2012.

The State Human Rights Commission has also ordered a probe into the incident.

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