Kolkata, February 10: The Kolkata police, along with a team of ‘civic volunteers’, beat up women protesters from rights organisations protesting against the Farm Laws and demanding jobs and security for women in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Barricades were broken as the police rained blows. However, the women marched on amid the police action. In the ensuing scuffle over 150 women were assaulted by the police with those arrested taken to the Lalbazar headquarters of the Kolkata Police. About 205 activists including members of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) leadership were arrested.
The West Bengal Left Front has given a call for a state-wide protest against the highhandedness shown to unarmed protesters by baton-wielding male police forces and civic volunteers. In a press release it said that the woman activists were barricaded when they tried to march from their dharna spot and were beaten up.
Later AIDWA state secretary Koninika Ghosh said she had been beaten up herself. The others injured include Soma Das, Atreyi Guha, Bilkis Begum, Monalisa Sinha and Samita Har Chowdhury. Latika Rahman and Kakli Moitra had to be hospitalised following the police violence.
Another band of AIDWA workers stood on the dharna stage along with hundreds of activists and shouted slogans till they negotiated a deal with police for the release of the woman activists.
In a statement, the AIDWA said that the police had put up barricades on all sides of the dharna venue which ensured that the women could not move. It mentioned that more than 4,000 women then moved to the main road from the Calcutta municipal corporation office’s gate.
“...the police beat them up with lathis, kicked them in the abdomen, dragged them by the hair to the buses waiting to arrest them. The women police were kept inactive and male policemen attacked the women in a most violent manner,” the AIDWA alleged.
“However women refused to leave the site of protest until the injured were taken care of and those arrested had been released. Eventually the police were obliged to do so and slogans were raised from the gathering shaming police atrocity and promising to carry on the struggle for food, work and freedom from violence,” it added.
CPI(M) state secretary Dr. Surya Kanta Mishra lambasted the state government and the police for its “highhandedness”, saying that the “filthy language used by the police for the protesters was unbelievable.” CPI(M) MLA Dr. Sujan Chakraborty said that the way the male police handled the situation was devoid of all “etiquette and laws and the police torture has hurt the woman’s right to live and protest.”
Earlier in the day, from a stage in the busy New Market area near the Kolkata Corporation Building, the AIDWA leadership, including Malini Bhattacharya and Koninika Ghosh, hailed the farmers’ protests in New Delhi and the people’s movements that have come up against the government at the Centre.
In her speech, AIDWA general secretary Koninika Ghosh said they do not adhere to laws which do not lead to the “betterment of lives for the people and was detrimental” to them. AIDWA workers raised slogans like, “Bhukha pete kaaj chai, jaat dhormer bibhed nai (Our hungry belly needs work which does not come with the baggage of caste, creed or religion). Leaders of the Mahila Congress, the AIWA, AIRWA and other Left and democratic women’s organisations also participated in the rally.
In her speech AIDWA leader Dr. Malini Bhattacharya said that by creating a narrative of binaries both the BJP and TMC wanted to distract people from the “real fight of getting food for all the people of the country. The Central Government has started giving permission for hoarding and is giving security to those who violate law and order,” she said. She added that the Centre was “thoroughly insensitive of people’s demands” like having food, employment and the means to have a roof over their heads.