Barun Biswas: Killed For Inspiring People to Fight Against Gang Rapes
Barun Biswas was born on September 12, 1972 in the village of Sutia, in West Bengal. His school teachers in Sutia say he was a hardworking boy who was never afraid to question authority. Barun would later say that these were lessons he learnt from his parents, who were landless laborers, and who despite their poverty worked hard to ensure their children got an education.
After university Barun went on clear the state civil services exam. If he wanted then he could have moved to the city, earned well, and led the comfortable life of a government bureaucrat.
But he wanted to serve the people of his village, and do something that would directly benefit them. The best way he believed he could do that was by becoming a school teacher.
From the year 2000, the village of Sutia was under siege. A gang of men went on a rampage, raping women, killing and extorting families. There were 33 reports of rape and more than 12 reports of murder. Most of the victims filed no police complaints because they were too terrified. The gang had political protection, so even the police would not arrest them. If anyone tried to complain, a woman from their family would be taken captive and gang-raped for weeks. Sometimes as punishment all the females in a family, even the little girls and elderly women would be raped.
This went on for two years, and then in July 2002, a small group of villagers gathered in the market place, to try to figure out what they could do, if anything. They were trying to convince other villagers to join them in an organized protest, and distributed pamphlets. But the villagers, afraid of reprisal quickly threw the pamphlets away. No one wanted to join the protest.
Barun Biswas then walked up to the front, took the microphone in his hand and told the villagers, “If we can’t protect our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, then we shouldn’t be living in a civilized society. If we lack the courage to take on the rapists, we deserve more severe punishment than they do.”
The crowd began to listen to him and more people gathered around. From there on Barun took on a leadership role to stop the gang from raping and terrorizing the village, and to get the victims justice. He set up an organized communal platform to fight for the villagers rights (the Pratibandi Mancha), and after relentless crusading, which included persuading victims to file complaint and identify the criminals, the platform managed to get the gang leader and a number of his gang members jailed. It was not easy for Barun and the organization’s members were frequently attacked and even injured. Non-the-less peace eventually returned to Sutia.
“Women were being raped and molested in front of their husbands and children. The gang enjoyed political support and no one could stop them. None of us knew how to start until Barun walked into that street-corner meeting. It was just the spark that we needed and the protest snowballed into an agitation that eventually ended the reign of terror.” said Hitlal Bayen, one of Barun’s neighbours who joined his protest platform.
Several rape victims filed complaints with police and identified the criminals. Barun also helped two of them get married. Rape victims are stigmatized in India and regarded as “polluted” and “unfit” for marriage. Though it made him a hero in Sutia, his commitment never changed. While peace reigned, the goons started plotting his death.
On July 5, 2012, Barun was returning home and was shot point blank as he emerged from the railway station. Even as he lay bleeding to death on the steps at the station, people were too afraid to approach him to help. With his dying breath he had to call his uncle on his mobile and summon help for himself. Help came too late. By then Barun was dead. He was just 39 years old.
Film on Barun’s Life http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proloy_(film)
Barun’s family believes the Trinamool Congress Party had a hand in his murder http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Family-suspects-TMC-hand-in-Baruns-murder/articleshow/22041232.cms
Sutia fears rape crimes again after Barun’s death http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Wholl-save-us-now-cries-rape-village/articleshow/14738969.cms