Rape victims of Sutia find voice

"Two of the goons had pinned down my father on the floor. They had thrust a revolver in his mouth, threatening to shoot him if he tried to shout. My mother was held at a dagger's edge. And in front of their eyes, I was raped by three persons."

Twelve years ago, she was gangraped by the goons at her home in Sutia in Barasat after she protested eve-teasing. She was then just 13 years old. Now, she has joined Pratibadi Manch, a forum started by rape crusader Barun Biswas, who had to lose his life for raising voice against the rapists of Sutia, an otherwise unknown hamlet in North 24-Parganas where people were afraid to speak up against the terror of rape perpetuated by a gang of hoodlums.

In less than a year after he was shot dead by the gang members who felt threatened by 40-year-old Barun's courage, many victims of rape have joined his forum and have pledged to take forward the crusader's movement. Among the 32 rape victims, who have joined the forum, four have been included in the forum's decision-making committee.

"Barun laid down his life for us and it is our duty to carry the torch of his movement ahead and not let the fire burn out," said a 25-year-old woman who was raped by her neighbour when she was only 14 years old. Her neighbour, whom she called "uncle" one evening too her to a secluded place and forced her to drink alcohol. "I was raped throughout the night. I don't know how many men and how many times. In the morning I was dumped at my place in a semi-conscious condition," she said. That was not the end for the girl. After a couple of days, people of the gang took her away to an abandoned house in Sukhsadhur Bhitey, a less frequented area of Sutia, and raped her again. After that the family left the place and returned after the victim joined the forum.

"Barunda had protested for us and now it is our turn to continue the fight so that the activities that he had managed to suppress do not resurface," said another rape victim.

The associates of Barun, who was shot dead on July 5 last year, rue "non-cooperation" from the state government. "Hooch death victims get Rs 2 lakh, but the teacher who had exemplified courage and laid down his life for a noble cause, is yet to get his due salary from the government school where he used to teach," said Atul Chandra Biswas, Barun's paternal uncle. He said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had visited nearby area to inaugurate an all-women police station soon after Barun's death, but she never enquired about Barun or mentioned him in her speech. "We had written to her about various issues that were raised in the inquiry of Barun's murder but she didn't reply," he said.

The forum is now demanding a CBI probe into the matter. "The IG and the OC of Gaighata police station had been doing a good job but they case was handed over to the CID without us demanding for it. We suspect it was done to cover up some of the top leaders' name that would have come up in the course of the investigation and this unsolicited intervention of the CID has only stunted the case," said Parimal Mondal, said a local resident and the joint secretary of the new body.

The president of the forum, Nani Charan Poddar, too, echoed similar emotions. "The CID has not taken the case even a bit forward from where it had taken it up. Although the shooter, the linkman and few others have been arrested, all the CID has done is summon us to their headquarters and interrogate us with unnecessary questions," he said.

Poddar added that the recent incidents of violence against women in Barasat had been a matter of concern for all of them. "Stray incidents like these would grow into heinous crime and should be nipped in the bud. We are planning to send our members to sensitise people there and put up a Protibadi Manch there as well," he said.

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