Criticising the Mamata Banerjee government for "stifling the voice of protest", a section of women rights activists Wednesday demanded withdrawal of a case slapped "clandestinely" on those who had given a memorandum at the West Bengal secretariat against a college student's rape and murder last year.
A group of 15 women rights activists including Anuradha Talwar, Bolan Ganguly, Saswati Ghosh, Rangta Munshi and Krishna Bandopadhyay had June 10 last year submitted a memorandum to the chief minister's office at the Writers' Buildings demanding the arrest of perpetrators in the rape and murder of a college student in Kamduni in North 24 Parganas district three days back.
"The same day (June 10), a case was filed against us on several charges including violating prohibitory orders and police even filed a charge sheet against eight of us Jan 3 before a court. But we were never informed about the case and police even got us declared absconding," said Munshi, also a lawyer.
She claimed that they came to know about the case only Feb 9 when a police team arrived at her residence with an arrest warrant.
"While police did not arrest me that day, today (Wednesday) the administration showed their true colours by arresting Shoma Mukherjee who ironically was not one of the five who had gone inside the Writers' that day to submit the memorandum," said Munshi.
"I wonder how can we be declared as absconders when we were never informed either about the case or the warrants that were issued against us," she added.
Mukherjee was arrested Wednesday morning and presented before a city court.
"Five of us were taken to the Writers' under police and brought out under police escort. We did not force our way in, there was no illegality in what we did that day.
"Is it possible for five women to create trouble in a heavily-guarded place like the state secretariat? The clandestine way by which the government slapped the case is reflective of its attitude to stifle voice of dissent," said Talwar.
While three of the activists applied and were granted bail Feb 14, the rest will be appearing before a city court Feb 21.
"Crime against woman has been steadily rising and the government faced with criticism now intentionally implicated us in a false case because it wants to give a stern message to those who dare to speak against it.
"We demand the case be immediately withdrawn and Mukherjee be released," said Ganguly who was granted bail Feb 14.
Banerjee had courted controversy during her visit to the rape victim's family, when faced with demonstrations from villagers, she lost her cool and branded the perpetrators of the crime as well as the protestors as "CPI-M people".