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Panchayat polls: Rape cases rise in rural Bengal, TMC on the backfoot

Jul 18, 2013 01:54 PM IST Politics Politics

North 24 Parganas: The recent spike in crimes against women and the resulting protests seems to have pushed the Trinamool Congress on the backfoot in certain pockets of rural Bengal. Ahead of the third phase of Panchayat polls on July 19, CNN-IBN's Sougata Mukhopadhyay brings visited North 24 Parganas district, which recently witnessed some of the most heinous crimes against women.

Kamduni in Barasat exposed the filthy underbelly of Bengal's crimes against women after a second year college student was raped and murdered there on the June 7. A delayed visit by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, unkept promises of security and an incomplete chargesheet by the CID has left the village simmering in discontent. A delegation from the village even met the President seeking a CBI inquiry into the crime and security for women in the area. Sensing the mood, political parties have kept away from even campaigning ahead of panchayat polls there.

"I am a polling officer. Yet I too have developed an apathy for the coming votes. I don't blame others who feel the same way," said Pradip Mukherjee a teacher of the Kamduni Primary School.

Of 12 Gram Panchayat seats in the Barasat II block, the Trinamool Congress has already won 11 seats by default as the Opposition has not fielded any candidates. But the aversion towards political parties here could spell trouble for Trinamool when it comes to polls for Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad seats.

In Gaighata bordering Bangladesh, the image of deceased Barun Biswas, who was murdered a year ago, continues to haunt the Trinamool. A social worker, Biswas was killed by anti-socials after he launched a crusade against rapists. Biswas's family alleges local TMC leaders are now targetting them.

"The Trinamool district president has called me a criminal and slapped a case on me. I want the CBI to investigate my son's murder," said Jagadish Biswas, the father of Barun Biswas.

"We are anticipating a calamity for the Trinamool in our area. And they are apprehending it too. That's why they have launched an attack against us," said activist Hitlal Bain.

The Trinamool thinks such accusations will have no impact despite another recent rape. "The 'Pratibadi Manch' is led by the Congress and CPM leaders who are using the Biswas family to pressure us. The voters will see through this and vote on the right symbol," said local TMC leader Ranjan Karmakar.

It seems that the legacy of people like Barun Biswas, which is gaining ground in various rural pockets of Bengal, is acting as a thorn in the flesh of the ruling Trinamool Congress. Although the damage to the party's vote bank it may cause could be miniscule, it is enough to keep the Mamata Banerjee government on its toes during the panchayat polls.