Kolkata, March 14 They were once an integral part of the Nandigram movement that eventually catapulted the Trinamool Congress into power in West Bengal, but women who were at the forefront of the anti-acquisition stir are now confined to their homes.
They are also subjected to all kinds of oppression, according to Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), a forum of women from diverse political and social movements, claimed on Saturday.
WSS has published a report on the “abject condition” of the women who were “subjected to inhuman torture including rape” during their movement against forcible land acquisition by the erstwhile Left Front government.
The acquisition was intended for a special economic zone in that rural area of East Midnapore district.
The movement that started in January, 2007, snowballed into a major agrarian agitation that eventually led to a police firing March 14, leaving 14 villagers dead and scores injured.
The day is observed as Nandigram Divas by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool.
“Women like Tapasi Das, Radharani Aari and others, became the face of the Nandigram movement, suffered rape, bullet wounds and state terror, but remained defiant.
“These women who were instrumental in unseating the Left Front in the state, today have been absolutely edged out of the political space,” said Anuradha Talwar of the WSS.
“My body was like a property that would get the votes,” Talwar quoted one of the rape survivors as saying.
“The victim was much sought after by the Trinamool during the build up to the 2011 state assembly elections but was later abandoned,” she said.
Only three of the 16 rape survivors have received compensation of Rs.2 lakh from the state government that was ordered by the Supreme Court.
But these women’s misery has been compounded by the fact that “the very men who subjected them to the brutality”, have made their way back into the villages after negotiating with the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) – an organisation formed for the movement.
“With the rapists freely roaming around with many of them living in adjacent houses, these women often live in fear,” said Saswati Ghosh of the WSS.
“Very few of the women, who were raped, injured or otherwise tortured during the movement, have been compensated by the government. In most of the cases, it’s the husband or the son who have got a job for the woman’s sacrifices, while she herself received nothing,” added Ghosh.
The forum also said that most of the cases slapped against the agitators, including that of murder, are still pending while there were no records of cases involving rape.
The WSS has said it will submit its findings to the chief minister Monday demanding the state government take steps to alleviate the women’s plight.