Lalgarh – Letter from Nari Ijjat Bnachao Committee to Kabir Suman

August 30, 2010

Translated by Debarshi Das, Sanhati

Click here to read the original Bengali version of the letter.

Mr. Kabir Suman
Member of Parliament, Government of India
Date: 03.08.10

Respected sir,

The inhuman incident of housewives of Sonamukhi village having been molested and raped by the joint forces of the Congress and CPI(M) must have reached you. You may have watched it on TV also. The story does not end here. The victims spoke to the media and went to the SDO of Jhargram for grievance redressal. Yet no offender was brought to the book and we were compelled to launch a movement. From Sonamukhi to Jhargram to Binpur: women of all these areas wiped the tears, with clenched fist marched to Jhargram. The SDO did not respond. But on July 16 and 17 the police beat up and drove us away, we were not told what was our fault. The story was not over. It had just begun.

We demanded justice but did not get it. Therefore we chose not to remain silent. As a consequence, the administration and CPI(M) attempted to attack us more. There is a village named Gnosaidanga near Dahijuri of Binpur. In solidarity with us, as a mark of protest the residents of the village wanted to block the road. The joint forces beat them up and injured 20-25 of them. The wounded tribals of village went to the Jhargram government hospital for treatment. Government doctors and other babus told us no adivasi or mahatos could be treated there. We are poor people, we were at a loss as to where to go. We do not have money or courage to go to private hospitals. So, we congregated a big mass and once more went to the hospital. There were thousands of us. We asked the administration and police bosses, if you would not treat us why are you bashing us up? They did not heed. But all of us, the housewives, daughters, daughter-in-laws, sisters, grand mothers rallied around. We did not keep mum just because there was no one to protect our ijjat (honour). We stood up. From sub-division to the parliament, we knocked at each door. We wanted to go to the world under the banner of ‘Nari ijjat bnachao committee’ (Committee to protect the honour of women).

There is something important we must tell you. The leader of youth Congress, Usha Naidu, visited Sonamukhi village. She sobbed as she talked to us. She is a woman, she wiped our tears, she herself shed some. But she did not demand immediate punishment of those responsible. She assured that she would send a report to Rahul babu, we don’t know if it was done. But she did not raise her voice for the oppressed, which was much needed. We also heard she was harrassed by the workers of Ms. Mamata on the Khejuri road. We hoped Sonia-sister, Mamata-sister would speak up. But it appears they could not find time. Armed forces had entered our village in large numbers, they raped, murdered, molested us. Yet the leaders would not speak up and demand withdrawal of soldiers. Is this really social justice? Does this reflect thoughts of high civil society? We reflected and we were sad. Would merely healing our wounds tantamount to supporting us?

We committed no crime. We have never gone to any police station or courts. We did not beat up anybody, or looted. We keep indoors in general. We wanted to protect the mores and honour of the mahato community. Excesses of the joint forces, harmad bahini, patwari bahini (mercenaries of the sponge iron factory owners) continue in our villages day and night and we have kept quiet. At mid night, not one or two, scores of them entered our houses, molested and raped us. Our old grand mother Sarabala Mahato (75) asked, “Why do you do such barbaric acts?” After this the animals danced over her body with guns in hand. There was nothing which they did not do. Mother Sarabala died after this. The government was reluctant to hand over her dead body. The inspector and other police officers of Jhargram police station were forcing us to put signature on the declaration that she died after she accidentally fell inside the house. We did not agree.

We paid respect to her after retrieving the body in whichever way we could. It is impossible to recount our pain; tears stop the pen. We want to meet you. To save the honour of victimised women you may choose to protest by stripping in front of the parliament. Or putting clothes over our dishonoured, pained bodies you may choose to stand with us. It is your decision. We hope you would feel our pain and speak up in the parliament to protect our honour.

Please bear with us and listen to us Sumanbabu, we are not finished yet. The tears have not dried, no one came to wipe them. We could not do our daily chores as we were emotionally hurt. We decided launch a campaign, spread the word around. We marched once again to Jhargram. We entered Jhargram on July 20 from one side. Some reported there were 35 thousand women, some said 40, some 50. We have no idea how many we were. We are not that educated. Probably you have seen us on the TV. Yet, we did not get any justice. They attacked, beat and chased us away. But we are not defeated. We have campaigned to more distant areas. We called more women to join the battle for saving your honour. It was the month of Shraban, a busy season in the fields. But what option did we have? The crops are growing in the field, but the field is bereft of water. Yet we went to the field to save what we could. We got down on the road too. Our dear school going children joined the rally to protect the respect of their mothers and sisters. The whole of Jhargram reverberated. Many processions ran through the town. On July 21 Mamata-didi announced in Dharmatala that she would visit Lalgarh. Although she did not shed any tears, we hope she would speak up against the bestial torture inflicted on us by the forces of the state and central government. We are the Manush of Jangalmahal’s Maa and Maati. Did she not see our protest in Jhargarm on July 20? The pain, demands, demonstrations, resistance on the Jangalmahal women must have caught her attention? Nowadays Buddhbabu declares us as Maoists. Perhaps didimoni may have heard this too. We are helpless if such allegations are made. Buddhababu announced in the assembly that no proof of rape was found. None present there protested against this remark. When we watched the TV we were convinced that our honour or respect is not a matter of concern to them. They would keep quiet if housewives in villages are attacked. We saw the photo of Manasbabu’s meeting in Khejuri (July 24) in protest against the beating up of Usha Naidu on Khejuri road. We saw his protest and the Rail Roko. We heard his speech. He says, the CPI(M) elements which have entered TMC are creating trouble. We have nothing to say on this. Who would take the responsibility of the dirty jobs perpetrated by the CPI(M)-turned-TMC? We don’t have anything to say on the Congress-TMC politics over Khejuri. Our point is, Manasbabu’s men can obstruct the trains and roads all over West Bengal on July 25; when we the housewives of peasant families stop the trains in the name of Nari ijjat bnachao committee the government dubs it as Maoist rail obstruction. None has protested this duplicity either in Kolkata or in Delhi. We are not educated, urban, with aristocratic background. We are not the bhadralok. We simply toil and earn our living. When Congress-CPI(M) forces rape us and we seek to protest we are attacked. Sarkari babus add insult to the injury by spreading lies about us. The ministers, leaders, MPs of different parties, local administration – all are locked in a silent conspiracy. As long as this goes on, what options are we left with but to sit and demonstrate on the roads, Kabirbabu?

We like to draw your attention to another machination of the government. The residents of Radhanagar of Jhargram have not allowed us take out a procession. The harmads of the village instigated the police. The students of Sebayatan school took out a procession, the head master ran to report this to the police. If the head master has mother, sisters, wife they are well protected in the hands of harmads, gano-protirodh committee [militia of CPI(M)] or the police. The head master is not therefore concerned about our safety. He stands with the CPI(M) and the police. The Radhanagar procession of July 24 was engineered by the CPI(M). Everyone in the area knows that, yet the truth never gets publicised. We therefore reiterate. As long as the government protects those who raped us we shall go on fighting.

Kabirbabu, join us in our fight. It’s not only you, we are writing letters to every MP. Please translate this letter and read it out in the parliament. Send this letter to each MP, artiste, writer, littérateur, poet, intellectual of the country. Be our voice in the parliament. Spread the saga of our tears and pain from Kolkata to Delhi and save our honour. Please tell the parliament that like everyone else we also have the right to life. Just as the mothers and sisters of the honourable people sitting in the parliament have honour, though we are poor we too have it. The soldiers that you have sent from the parliament to our villages and fields have not come to bestow peace and protection on us. They are the very people to attack us. Please withdraw them. And never send them to anywhere else. Please send this message of ours to the parliament and everywhere. Do accept our respect and love.

With revolutionary greetings,
Nari Ijjat Bnachao Committee