(We are publishing below a statement released by a number of intellectuals and concerned citizens, regarding the openly partisan role played by the West Bengal State Women's Commission in the Rizwanur Rehman case. ]
We are distressed to read the statement of the West Bengal State women's Commission after its visit to Priyanka Todi whose husband Rizwanur Rahman was found dead on the railway track after he had fixed an appointment with the APDR friends regarding his harassment at the hands of the Kolkata Police who were acting in blatant violation of all legal and civil norms at the behest of Priyanka's father Ashok Todi . Todi wanted her daughter to walk out of the marriage and had mobilized Kolkata police to terrorize Rizwan and his friend Sadiq who was witness to their marriage. The couple was called to the Lal bazaar Thana and was told by the police that Priyanka should go to her parents and they would ensure that she returned after a week. This was not to happen. She was forced to go her father but all efforts of Rizwan to talk to her after this period failed. Desperate, he contacted the APDR .
One must remember that Sadiq, who was witness to their marriage, was threatened by police . He had to go into hiding. Priyanka had gone to her parents on 8 September. Rizwan wrote a detailed account of his harassments at the hands of the Kolkata Police and gave it to the APDR. On 21 September, he talked to the APDR people and it was decided that they would meet in the afternoon. This meting was also not to take place. He was found dead on the Railway tracks. Prasun Mukherji, the Kolkata police Chief declared immediately without waiting for the customary autopsy report that it was a transparent case of suicide. He blatantly justified the illegal intervention of the police in a perfectly legal marriage between tow adults Priyanka and Rizwan, claiming that it was natural for the father of the girl to get upset over such marriage, as it was a marriage between unequals. After all, Ashok Todi is a man of more the 200 crores and Rizwan was only a Muslim of modest earning!
We know that a powerful people's campaign is on demanding the removal of the cops involved in the whole affair which has repeatedly been rejected by the CM, West Bengal . It is now a matter of public discussion that Todi is close to Prasun . The west Bengal government is putting shameless arguments in the high court opposing a CBI investigation. It is widely believed that the CID report has been manipulated to make it a case of suicide. The state government has violated all norms in constituting a Judicial Inquiry.
In these circumstances, the visit of the State Women's Commission to Ashok Todi's place to know about Priyanka's well being and the statements made by the members of the commission afterwards that Priyanka had come on her own to Todi and the Police were not harsh to her and she wanted to be left alone and to top it all, the appeal by the members of the commission to Priyanka that she should not let herself get harassed by the media make it very clear that the commission is being used to give legitimacy to the police and the government and also to Ashok Todi. Should one be surprised that the Commission did not think it fit to visit Rizwan's family and instead went to Todi's house which, as has rightly been said cannot be a neutral site ?
We are pained and shocked to see that despite eminent people like Jashodhara Bagchi heading the state commission it has failed to maintain an autonomous position on the case, succumbing to tow the official line of the police and the state government and that too on its own initiative without any visible pressure from outside. This is a reflection of manner in which Women's State Commissions have been undermined nationally and in states whether it is Rajasthan or West Bengal. Time and again the interests of women and protection of their rights are compromised for political interests or for maintaining the interests of those who are powerful.
We condemn strongly the move by the West Bengal State Women's Commission. They need to remember that these institutions were created after a long and difficult struggle and any move to make them subservient to the state would be resisted with the might of the people. The members of the Commission have lost their right to continue as they have, on this occasion and on many occasions like Singur and Nandigram failed to act in an autonomous manner.
Uma Chakravarti, Historian, Delhi
Harjinder Singh, Academic, IIIT, Hyderabad
Imtiaz Ahmad , Academic, Delhi
Tamilnadu Women's Collective
Dilip Simeon, Academic, Delhi
Kalyani Menon-Sen, Jagori, Delhi
Mukta Sinha, Charkha Samiti, Patna
Arshad Ajmal, Al Khair Society, Patna
Rabin Chakraborty, Kolkata
Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, Delhi
Teesta Setalvad ,Co-Editor, Communalism Combat
Sheba George, SAHR WARU: Women's Action and Resource Unit
Trupti Shah, Sahiyar, Vadodara
Meher Engineer, Kolkata
Arun Kumar, Delhi
Nasiruddin Haider Khan, Journalist, Lucknow
Ranjana Padhi, Delhi
Khurshid Anwar, Institue for Social Democracy, Delhi
Ujjwal Kr Singh, Academic, Delhi University
Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad
Apoorvanand, Academic, Delhi University
Aditya Nigam, Academic, CSDS, Delhi
Nivedita Menon, Academic, Delhi University
Rupesh, Koshish, Patna
Neelu, Nari Jagaran Kendra, Patna
Dhruv Narain, Daanish Books, Delhi
Sunita Narain, Daanish Books, Delhi
Asmita Collective, Secunderabad
Nagraj Adve, Delhi
Saleem Kidwai, Lucknow .
Md. Farooque, Muscat , Saudi Arabia
Kumar Rana, kolkata
Shramajibee Mahila Samity
Tamil Nadu Women's Forum
Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Movement
Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay.