Observing that there was no democracy in the Darjeeling hills, National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma, who concluded her four-day visit to the hills on Wednesday, said she would send her report to the President of India, Union Home Minister and the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
“During my visit I did not feel that I am in a corner of independent India… There is an attempt to suppress people. From the very day I made plans to visit the hills I was discouraged from coming here,” Ms. Sharma told journalists at Siliguri in Darjeeling district.
She said she met about 150 complainants from Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts who alleged police excesses during the 104 days of shutdown from June to September 2017.
“I will recommend inquiry by an independent investigation agency and will summon the SPs of Darjeeling and Kalimpong and the IG of North Bengal who served during the shutdown,” she said.
Ms. Sharma alleged that the police went house to house preventing people, particularly women, from meeting her.
The Darjeeling district administration denied the allegations made by the NCW chief. “The NCW should be responsible and specific about the allegations it makes. Why should I stop anybody from meeting her? If we wanted to prevent her from meeting people, we could have stopped her at Bagdogra. She did meet a number of people in the hills,” said Joyoshi Dasgupta, the District Magistrate of Darjeeling.
Ms. Dasgupta said she was unaware of the Ms. Sharma’s visit. “There should have been a newspaper ad announcing the NCW inquiry. Had there been wide publicity, more people would have met the NCW team,” she said.
The NCW chairperson alleged that the police are occupying the houses of people who escaped facing arrest and their names are being removed from the voters’ list.
“I have seen a woman with 45 cases, a woman picked up while going to buy vegetables… In a prison I met a woman political prisoner with 70 cases against her,” she said.
Referring to a matter where a police officer was allegedly heard threatening a resident with violence, rape and burning down the house, the NCW chairperson said that the administration has done nothing in the matter. Citing the case of a woman losing one eye in tear-gas shelling, Ms. Sharma said that many women did not receive any medical intervention from the State administration after the shutdown.
I have seen a woman with 45 cases, a woman picked up while going to buy vegetables... in a prison I met a woman political prisoner with 70 cases against her
National Commission for Women chairperson