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Crime against Women in Bengal: A Tale of Politics, Patriarchy and Misogyny Nirupam Hazra According to the National Crime

Record Bureau (NCRB) report, 30,942 cases of crime against omen ro ere reported in 20!2 from Bengal, the highest in the countr"# Bengal accounted for omen in &ndia and for the second "ear in a omen# (hat as 'urdened ith the distinction of 'eing the most unsafe place for !2#$% per cent of the total crime committed against Bengal

ails the state hich is )no n for its cultural *i'ranc" and progressi*e intellectualism and led '" a feist" oman chief minister+ !ey"ords: rape, (est Bengal, patriarch", crime against omen, protest, misog"n", ,ince, -amata Baner.ee led /rinamool Congress (/-C) came to po er in 20!!, hate*er ent

rong in the state0from farmer suicide to recent incidents of rape, as termed as conspirac" of either main opposition part" Communist 1art" of &ndia (C1-) or the -aoist# But, toda" crime against omen in the state has 'ecome a serious crisis not onl" for the ne go*ernment, 'ut for the entire Bengali societ"# 2i)e other parts of the countr", incidents of rape and other *iolent crime against omen ha*e increased at a distur'ing pace# But the alarming rise of such crimes in Bengal, points to ards a deeper malaise in the societ" hich goes 'e"ond the con*enient ritual of demoni3ing modernit" and 'laming the culture of malls, multiple4 and migration# -odern progressi*e Bengali societ", in its dar) under'ell" nurtured a culture of misog"n" hich is irreconcila'l" alien to its elite intellectualism and refined cultural sensiti*it"# /he series of se4ual crimes against omen in rural Bengal is manifestation of this misog"n" hich has long 'een o*erloo)ed# ,e4ual crimes accompanied '" 'ar'aric *iolence are an attempt of per*erse patriarch" to reassert its control o*er female 'od"# /he recent incidents of rape reported in last t o months share an uncann" similarit" among them# &n all these cases the *ictims conse5uence, all of them ere "oung college or school going girls ho dared to re.ect or def" the ad*ances of the perpetrators and as a ere raped, 'rutali3ed, murdered and dumped# (hen these incidents are anal"3ed in a larger conte4t, it tells a stor" of a *iolence hich is s"stematic, of an attempt to perpetuate the patriarchal domination# /he defiance or resistance of the *ictims is al a"s ta)en as an insult to the masculinit" of the perpetrators, hile their pursuit of education and su'se5uent
1

The author is from West Bengal; presently he is a scholar at Department of Social Work, University of Delhi. Email ha!ra.nirupam"gmail.com

emancipation and empo erment is percei*ed as a threat to patriarchic mode of social control and su'ordination# 6nder this circumstances rape along ith misog"nistic *iolence 'ecomes the onl" means to satisf" the 7 ounded8 masculinit" and sa*e the 7threatened8 patriarch"# But the stor" does not end here# &n Bengal, crime against omen, especiall" rape, has significance 'e"ond its misog"nistic as 'ased on her

manifestation of male ego and patriarchic mode of su'.ugation# Rape in Bengal has al a"s 'een an e*ent of political significance# 9*en -amata Baner.ee8s political .ourne" protest and politics of rape# -amata Baner.ee8s first tr"st (riters8 'uilding ith rape protest came in !993# :er as against

gritt" and e4traordinar" demonstration in front of chief minister ;"oti Basu8s cham'er in as a landmar) e*ent of her political career# /he demonstration the rape of a hearing and speech impaired girl# /hen in 200$, the rape and murder of /apasi -ali), a mem'er of ,a*e <armland Committee of ,ingur= triggered a huge political protest against the ruling 2eft front# /apasi half>'urnt 'od" as in forefront of the mo*ement against forceful land ac5uisition for /ata Nano plant in ,ingur# :er raped and as found in a pit near the fence of the Nano plant# (another e4ample of ith ci*il societ" misog"n")# -em'ers of opposition, namel" -amata Baner.ee8s /-C, along mem'ers and intellectuals staged a spirited protest and demonstration# But unli)e the spontaneous protest that follo ed the ?elhi gang rape, protests against rape in Bengal ha*e al a"s 'een sporadic and disparate in nature, especiall" under the present go*ernment# @ne of the main reasons for this as the silence of the ci*il societ"# ?uring the assem'l" election in 20!!, Bengali ci*il societ" and intelligentsia unconditionall" tendered their support for -amata Baner.ee and her part"# No , the predicament of most of the ci*il societ" mem'ers, ho once enthusiasticall" supported -amata, is that their open or direct criticism of ould not onl" put a 5uestion mar) on their o n credi'ilit" as an the present go*ernment

intellectual 'ut also immediatel" turn them into political renegade# ,o, most of the ci*il societ" mem'ers ha*e 'een reluctant to stage a demonstration or organi3e a protest march# &n a highl" polari3ed political landscape of Bengal= e*en a spontaneous protest against gruesome rape in*aria'l" 'ecomes a political statement# &t is not a predicament of Bengali intellectuals onl"= it is e5uall" true for common Bengali people# &n Bengal, especiall" 'efore crucial pancha"et election, e*er" pu'lic act, e*er" protest is political# ,o, a protest against rape does not

necessaril" mean one8s identification

ith the cause, 'ut

hat it ine*ita'l" stands for is

reconfiguration one8s political alignment and allegiance# &t leads to another crisis of Bengal politics and that is rapidl" shrin)ing space for democratic protest# /hough demoni3ation of dissent is nothing ne in the state, a num'er of recent incidents in the state sho ed ho deep the rot has spread# /he state has alread" itnessed that satirical cartoon or a mere demand for one8s o n right can put people 'ehind the 'ars# /he democratic right to peaceful protest has 'een criminali3ed# /oda" all the crimes in the state are attri'uted to C1- conspirac" and all the protests are allegedl" fueled '" Na4al propaganda# 9*en during her *isit to the famil" of Aamduni rape *ictim, chief minister pu'licl" proclaimed in front of angr" *illagers that all the perpetrators ere C1- supporter# Not onl" this, she e*en spotted Na4als hich as among those angr" *illagers see)ing .ustice# 9arlier one of her ministers made an unsuccessful attempt to 'u" the silence of the *ictim famil" '" offering a go*ernment .o', promptl" re.ected '" the famil"# ,uch politici3ation of crimes or attempt to hush>up and ignore them has onl" 'olsters the perpetrators# &nstead of facilitating speed" .ustice, the go*ernment8s priorit" has 'een determining the political affiliation of *ictims and perpetrators# But this is not the onl" &ndian oman the go*ernment a" of responding to the incidents of rape# <e'ruar" last "ear an Anglo>

as raped at gunpoint inside a mo*ing car on 1ar) ,treet# /he first reaction from as of denial# /he chief minister herself termed the entire e*ent as 7coo)ed up8 oman -1 of /-C ent a step further and as a

ith an intention to malign her go*ernment# A

called it a misunderstanding 'et een 7a oman and her client8, insinuating that the *ictim

prostitute# Apart from indulging in character assassination of the *ictim, this insensiti*e statement also implied that a prostitute cannot 'e a *ictim of rape# ,uch disparaging and insensiti*e remar)s from omen chief minister and -1 reflect the deepl" entrenched patriarchal mindset of the societ"# But the insensiti*it" and intolerance did not stop here# /he officer ho sol*ed the case and pro*ed the Chief -inister rong ith a transfer to police training oman &1, as immediatel" re arded

ing# &nstead of gi*ing e4emplar" punishment to the

perpetrators, the in*estigating officer as pulled up and punished for carr"ing out her dut"# 2i)e the go*ernment, the administration also li*es in a state of denial and faithfull" echoes the dismissi*e stand of the go*ernment# /he recent incidents of rapes ere termed as isolated incidents '" the 1rinciple ,ecretar"# ?irector Beneral of 1olice challenged the figures released

'" NCRB and claimed Bengal is much safer than other states

hile ,tate (omen Commission ithout admitting the o'*ious oman is

argued that more crimes are 'eing reported no ada"s in the state,

that more crimes are also ta)ing place no ada"s# Actuall" no one is read" to accept the realit"0 neither the go*ernment nor the administration0and the frightening realit" is that no safe in Bengal#