ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When the 'Maoists' Took Over the Streets of Kolkata

Why did the Kamduni incident - the rape and murder of a young college student and the utterly insensitive handling of the issue by the West Bengal government and the ruling Trinamool Congress - spark off such a huge reaction to bring together a wide spectrum of civil society under one umbrella in Kolkata on 21 June?

It was a hot and muggy afternoon on 21 June, when in an incredible display of public solidarity and defiance, thousands of people marched through the streets of Kolkata in silent protest. There were no political parties to manage the swelling numbers, no brandishing of political flags to claim victory for any organisation. Led by respected intellectuals, people poured in from all corners of the city as well as its outskirts to show their support and solidarity – elderly people, some with sticks and crutches; homemakers, for many of whom it was their first rally; working people who spontaneously got off buses or skipped work. There were students in large numbers with banners and placards, teachers, villagers holding hands for safety in an unfamiliar place, rights activists distributing leaflets, feminists with colourful posters, non-governmental organisation workers, actors, academics and journalists – all came together to protest the spurt in crimes against women in the state.

The protest was triggered by the gang-rape and murder of a young college girl Sheila (not her real name) in Kamduni village, Barasat district on 7 June and the insensitive handling of the incident by the state government. It was for the first time that the city, famous for its processions, witnessed an outpouring from such a wide cross-section of society, about an issue generally left to women’s groups and feminists to battle: the safety and security of women.

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