Indian state of West Bengal rocked by protests after sexual assault and murder of young woman in two different attacks

Protests have been held in various places across the state and on Thursday campaigners gathered close to the Kolkata home of the state’s chief minister

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The Independent Online

The Indian state of West Bengal has been rocked by a series of protests following the sexual assault and murder of a young woman and a girl in two different attacks.

Protests have been held in various places across the state and on Thursday campaigners gathered close to the Kolkata home of the state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.

At least 13 members of the women’s rights group, Maitree, were arrested by police.

“The police told us that we can’t meet her since there are so many of us. So we said that the rest of us can wait outside while three or four people can go and meet her,” activist Anuradha Kapoor told the Indian media.

She added: “The state of women’s security in terrible. It has been like that for a long time now and we elected a new government for a reason. However, they are in complete denial of the situation and when you protest, this is what you get.”

The protests followed two high-profile attacks in the state. In one incident, which happened a week ago, a 20-year-old student was gang-raped and murdered in Kamduni village, little more than 12 miles outside of Kolkata.

The 20-year-old was on her way home from college after an exam when she was apparently dragged into a walled compound by a group of men, raped and then killed.  Six people have been arrested so far. A hunt is on for more people who may have been involved. 

Indian media reported that people in the neighbourhood had repeatedly raised the issue of increasing lawlessness but that the police had ignored them. The local member of parliament, who belongs to Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress party, was heckled when he tried to visit the family and his vehicle was damaged.

As with the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in Delhi last December – an incident that sparked demonstrations across the country – the young woman killed in the West Bengal incident was seeking to make a better life for herself, having come from poor background.

According to the Indian Express newspaper, the young woman had been a second-years student at the Dirozio Memorial College. Her father earns 100 rupees a day assisting a stone mason. “She said she would shine in life,” the young woman’s father said.

Just days after the attack, a 12-year-old girl was raped and killed in a village in the Nadia district, around 100 miles from Kolkata. One man has been arrested but police are searching for two others.

Ms Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress were elected in 2011, ending 34 years of rule by the Communist Party of India. But Ms Banerjee has been repeatedly criticised for failing to tackle law and order issues and for being insensitive to the question of women’s safety.

Earlier this month, a 21-year-old Irish charity worker was allegedly raped in the city. Police have arrested a businessman, accused of drugging and raping her. It has since been reported that the woman has been hospitalised following an overdose of prescription drugs.