October 02, 2005

Raiganj rape case: Das Munshi plays up to Muslim vote bank

Kolkata, Sept.5 (VSK): She was vibrant, full of youthful energy and enthusiasm; she was only 14 years old. But, Pratima Das’ life was cut short. A student of class VIII, her only crime was that she was born in a Hindu family and lived with her parents in the Muslim-dominated Kasba Maheso village near Raiganj town in North Dinaipur district in the Communist-ruled West Bengal. On August 2, four local notorious Muslim youth abducted Pratima, raped and then murdered her. The criminals are yet to be arrested despite massive public protest against the police inaction.

The rape and murder of Pratima snowballed into a massive agitation all over the district. On August 4, two daysafter her brutal murder, angry local villagers setup road blocks on Raiganj-Balurghat state highway demanding immediate arrest of the culprits. Strangely, instead of arresting the criminals the police resorted to indiscriminate firing to disperse the agitators. Two innocent villagers were killed and at least 100 others injured in police firing on the day.

But Raiganj police firing on thousands of innocent villagers assembled to seek justice from the district administration remained unnoticed by the insensitive so-called secular media fearing a backlash from the Muslims.

The four Muslim goons, Hero Muhammad, Saturja Muhammad, Hussain Ansari and Mukta Ali, are members of a notorious gang of smugglers operating around the Indo-Bangladesh border. These four motorbike riding Muslim goons had made it a daily practice to tease Pratima while she was on her way to school: As the teasing went beyond tolerance, Pratima protested and reported the matter to the school authorities. This enraged the criminals and they openly threatened to rape her soon. The local police was informed about the threat but no action was taken to prevent the crime. It is alleged that the local police have an unholy alliance with the smugglers operating in the border area and that was the reason for police inaction. It is a shame that the district superintendent of police tried to cover-up the police inaction by questioning the moral characterof the victim.

Why blame the police superintendent alone? The village is situated under the Raiganj Parliamentary Constituency that has returned the Union Congress Minister for Water Resources Development in the UPA government, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi. The high-profile Congress Minister described the incident as a trivial one and he found a conspiracy hatched by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Paraishad (ABVP) and the BJP to foment communal tension in Raiganj constituency to discredit him. Dasmunshi went to Raiganj on August 25 to preside over a rally in the town organised by the district Chhatra Parishad, a student wing of the Congress. The Union Minister later led Chhatra Parishad activists and himself torn down posters that carried the photograph of Pratima Das alleging her rape and murder by four Muslim youth. He asked his party followers to tear down all the posters. This is the first time in West Bengal that a Union Minister has behaved in such an unruly manner.

Dasmunshi's indecent behaviour led to widespread condemnation all over North Dinaipur district. The ABVP organised a massive protest rally on August 29 in Raiganj town to condemn Dasmunshi's undemocratic action as well as to demand arrest of all the culprits involved in Pratima Das rape and murder. Senior BJP leader, Shri Vinay Katiyar, State BJP President Shri Tathagata Roy and ABVP leaders, Shri Ramnaresh Singh and Shri Rabiranjan Sen, among others, demanded the resignation of Dasmunshi from the Union Cabinet. They unanimously demanded judicial probe into unprovoked police firing on the agitating villagers and asked the administration to release all the persons arrested following the incident.


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