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Bengal's daughter: Tragic tale of Tuktuki Mandal

| | in Coffee Break

The abduction and alleged rape of a teen from rural West Bengal is the latest addition to a long list of Hindu girls victimised by Muslim goons in the State, where neither the ruling party nor the Opposition is in any mood to help

Callous and insensitive as it may sound, incidents of young girls being abducted, raped or trafficked no longer constitute news as it is being increasingly defined by the 24-hour, TRP-driven news cycle of India's so-called ‘mainstream media’. If at all they grab the attention of newsrooms, then it is either on account of gory details or because reporting it contributes to the political tamasha that has become primetime and front page staple for the consumption of an audience or readership that seeks cheap thrills and not information.

And so it is that the tragic story of a teenaged girl, lovingly named

Tuktuki (pretty) by her parents, who was kidnapped by goons in May and has been missing since then, has not found mention in news bulletins and newspapers, not even as a passing mention. It would, therefore, only be fair to tell her story, and that about the agony of her parents, if only to ensure that it does not go unrecorded.

Tuktuki Mandal was a student of Class 10 at the local village school in Magrahat police station area of South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal. On February 25 this year she was abducted while returning home from the nearby bank where she had gone to check the balance in her account. According to her father, Subhash Mandal, a daily wage-earner, she was abducted by three goons who are members of a gang headed by a hoodlum called Salim. He is believed to enjoy the patronage of the ruling Trinamool Congress. Before Mamata Banerjee came to power, Salim was a CPI(M) thug. Like most thugs in West Bengal, he switched political loyalties in the summer of 2011.

The distraught father sought the Panchayat Pradhan’s help. In turn, he was asked to file a police complaint, which he did at Magrahat police station. Nothing happened. Subhash Mandal says Salim’s men called him for a meeting on the night of March 7 at the house of a man called Babusona Gazi. Subhash Mandal claims when he reached Gazi’s house, he found at least 50 men there, armed with guns. According to him, he was asked to “sign some blank papers and told to withdraw the police complaint”.

Subhash Mandal objected to the conditions imposed by his daughter’s tormentors. They told him he would get to see his daughter again only if he “withdrew the complaint and would not get the girl medically examined”. He says the goons promised to help him financially with his daughter’s marriage. He says he felt helpless and scared, so he “agreed to their proposal and signed the papers”. Tuktuki was handed over to her father. Later his wife told him that Tuktuki had been “repeatedly raped”.

These details are from a rough transcript put out by the organisers of a Google Hangout with Subhash Mandal to mobilise support for him and bring about pressure on the indifferent district administration and Government of West Bengal. Here is a rough, edited for space, version of what Tuktuki’s father said during the hangout:

On March 9, girl’s father went to Magrahat Police Station where the Investigating Officer compelled him to sign some papers. Afterwards, the girl was taken for medical examination by the police where it is alleged that Salim’s goons were already present and they threatened the father and girl openly brandishing guns at them even in the presence of the police. The girl was very scared so she signed a paper that mentioned she was not willing to get a medical examination done.

Scared of the goons, the parents decided on the marriage of their girl despite her being under age.The father informed the Panchayat Pradhan about the marriage. He also informed the elder brother of one of the accused about it as they had promised to help him with his daughter’s marriage.

On May 5 at 1 am, the accused, accompanied with his father and brother-in-law, barged into the victim’s house. After switching off the electricity supply in the area, it is alleged that they ransacked the house at gun-point and looted all the money and ornaments that the victim’s father had collected for Tuktuki’s marriage. Afterwards, they took the girl with them. When the parents screamed for help, the goons hurled bombs and fled.

The victim’s father again met the Pradhan for help but he allegedly didn’t do anything. On the evening of May 5, he went to Magrahat Police Station and narrated the whole incident to the Officer-in-Charge and the Investigating Officer. He noticed that while lodging the complaint, the police excluded the name of the accused. Instead, the police added new names. When the father protested, the officer scolded him and warned him to sign the papers if he wanted to see his daughter alive.

The victim’s father said that afterwards he had been to the police station several times to inquire about his daughter and also told them that he and his family were under constant threat from the accused’s family and friends and also from Salim’s thugs. The police, however, always told him that they were trying to get her back.

Losing all faith in the police, the father decided to visit Kolkata and ask for help from Tapan Ghosh, founder and editor of Hindu Samhati, an organisation that looks after the causes and issues of Hindu community. Tapan Ghosh promised to help him find his daughter as soon as possible. He helped the victim’s father draft a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to ask them for help in finding his daughter.

On June 29, the victim’s father got a call from an unknown person who told him to go to Sonarpur to get his daughter. Accompanied with a few members of Hindu Samhati and three relatives, when the father reached Sonarpur, the same unknown person told him to go to Ghutiyari Sharif, which is known for a number of notorious criminals residing there. Taking all the risks, eventually they reached there. The Investigating Officer was also there accompanied by policemen from Jibantala Police Station. The victim’s father didn’t know how they got the news. The location was adjacent to Dhoaghata mosque.

The father repeatedly requested the police to stay away but they didn’t listen. The unknown person realised that the father was accompanied by policemen and immediately cut the call. The police left afterwards. In a few moments after the police left, hundreds of people rushed to them from the mosque and attacked the victim’s father, relatives and members of Hindu Samhati. With no police support, they had no option but to flee from there.

Refusing to give up, Subhash Mandal, with the help of Hindu Samhati, filed a case in Calcutta High Court. Unimpressed by the stalling tactics of the police and civil administration, the judge has ordered that Tuktuki Mandal be produced in court on or before July 27 and arrest her abductors. It remains to be seen whether the police complies with the court order.

There are three points that need to be made in the context of Tuktuki Mandal’s tragedy. First, Hindu girls in their teens are being increasingly abducted and raped, or forced into marriage, by Muslim goons in those areas of West Bengal where there has been an extraordinary spike in the Muslim population, largely on account of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. It may seem exaggerated but Hindu activists claim the situation is fast veering towards that which prevails in Pakistan.

Tapan Ghosh told me the Hindu victims of Muslim excesses are invariably poor and vulnerable. There is an exodus going on, sharply reducing the Hindu population and leaving those who stay back at the mercy of thugs like Salim. He contends that the Hindu population in many areas has fallen below the 50 per cent mark. What adds a vicious edge to Muslim zealotry (which is visibly on the rise and palpable across West Bengal) is the political patronage extended by Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress.

Second, even if we were to believe, against odds stacked a mile high, that the State Government is keen to roll back the tide of Muslim zealotry, halt the illegal immigration of Bangladeshis and stop the exodus of Hindus from villages, there is simply no action on the ground. The police is scared of Trinamool goons, the administration is reluctant to act in a firm manner, and Mamata Banerjee needs Muslim votes more than she feels necessary to protect Hindus.

Third, the BJP in West Bengal is hobbled by leaders who are devoid of credibility. When the Left Front was in power, these leaders were scornfully referred to as tormuj or watermelon, green outside, red inside. Now when the Trinamool Congress is in power, they are seen as being green both outside and inside. Since the Left, notably the CPI(M), is loath to stand by Hindus (the communists still hope to regain the support of Muslims, the mainstay of whichever party wishes to win elections), people had hoped the BJP would come to their aid.

That hope was entirely misplaced as the continuing marginalisation of the BJP since the spike in support for Narendra Modi during the 2014 Lok Sabha election shows. A made-for-media dharna at

Magrahat is meaningless. The brutal fact is that the BJP did not come to the aid of the girl’s parents on the day Tuktuki Mandal was abducted. That was a litmus test which the BJP has miserably failed.

 

(The writer is a current affairs analyst based in NCR)

 
 
 
 
 
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