Kolkata, June 22: Cutting across age and social status, members of civil society, rights groups and various women's fora took to the city streets Friday to take a united stand against the West Bengal government's "failure to curb rising incidents of crimes against women".
Poets, painters, authors, film and theatre personalities, singers, and social activists walked alongside thousands of common people decrying the incidents of sexual violence and the "insensitive" reactions of the Trinamool Congress regime of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Poet Sankha Ghosh, painter Samir Aich, actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty, film director Tarun Majumdar, the march swelled in numbers as womens' groups like Sramjeebi Mohila Samiti, Paschim Banga Khetmajur Samiti, and students and teachers of leading city colleges, joined in.
Amid much sloganeering that demanded punishment for the perpetrators ("Shaasti Chai") and essayed an intolerance to all atrocities ("Bondho Koro..Aar Na..Maanbo Naa..Hobe Naa"), students and senior citizens sang through the walk, rendering inspiring numbers like "We Shall Overcome".
Doing their bit to bring about a change in a "pathetic" scenario, lecturers of top city colleges soldiered on in the sultry afternoon, a day after Banerjee lashed out at certain members of society for not doing any service but only indulging in money-making.
She had said that some criticising her on television talk shows were even involved in pornography.
"I feel ashamed to belong to a state whose CM doesn't know how to behave. It is pathetic. I feel insecure stepping out," Sharmila Ray, a lecturer at City College for Women, told IANS.
The march saw banners and placards flashing words "Kamduni, Gede and Gaighata" that reminded everybody of horrific incidents at these places.
Walking beside theatre personalities Rudraprasad Sengupta, Suman Mukhopadhyay, writer Amit Chaudhuri and painter Wasim Kapoor, many protestors remarked that there has been no change for the good, but only change for the worse.
"Kichu bhalo poriborton hoi ni (There has been no change). You see the rising atrocities against women, that is the only change," a member of Pritobad Moncho, Sutia, in North 24 Parganas, told IANS.
Welcomed by the protestors, siblings of the Kamduni gang-rape victim also participated.
Nonagenarian film-maker Mrinal Sen, among the conveners of the march, could not participate due to his advanced age but expressed solidarity through a letter.
"This protest is not only against atrocities on women, but also against the misdeeds of the government and its tendency to browbeat people," said Sen.
Many political figures also joined the protests, sans party flags. Among them were Congress's Nirbed Roy, and Left leader and former state finance minister Ashok Mitra. One-time Maoists Ajijul Haq and Asim Chatterjee were also present.
The gang-rape-murder of a college girl from Kamduni village in North 24 Parganas district June 7 acted as the trigger for the mammoth rally.
Chief Minister Banerjee visited the village Monday, but ended up shouting at women protesting against the incident and seeking to talk to her. An enraged Banerjee screamed "shut up" at the women and called them Maoists and CPI-M activists, drawing flak from the civil society, media and the opposition.