Police arrested and detained 13 women’s rights activists Thursday after anti-rape protests swelled in West Bengal, India. The protests were centered on two recent high-profile rape cases in the state.
The Indian National Crime Records Bureau released statistics Thursday related to crime against women, spotlighting West Bengal as having the highest concentration of such crime in the country. According to their data, 12.67 percent of the 30,942 reported cases of crime against women in India in 2012 occurred in West Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee contested the report, stating that “we have been trying to curb the incidence of crime against women by taking swift actions.” Her claim that “the situation is comparatively better now as compared to other states” outraged women’s rights activists, who have perceived the state government’s handling of sexually violent crime as lacking.
40 activists gathered early Thursday morning near CM Banerjee’s residence at Kalighat temple. They planned to protest with rallies and demonstrations all day. They began marching toward the CM’s residence, but were approached by police who blocked their way and asked them to retreat. They refused, explaining that they wanted to present the CM with a memorandum. “It is not desirable to stage demonstration in front of someone”s residence,” Kolkata Police Commissioner Surajit Kar Purakayastha told reporters, “especially in front of CM”s residence.” He defended his team, adding that “the CM is a Z-plus protective. She has threats to her life.”
According to protestors, police agreed to escort 4 women to the CM’s residence but then “turned hostile,” arresting some of the peaceful protestors and “packing [them] into a police van.” The women were taken to police headquarters at Lalbazar and did not receive an explanation of the charges against them.
Protests against the government have been ongoing in India since December, when a college student was tortured and gang-raped in New Delhi. “It is the beginning of our movement,” said Anuradha Kapoor, a member of civil rights group Maitree who was arrested. “We won”t give up so easily.”