The death of a 16-year-old girl, who was gang-raped in October, snowballed into a major political controversy in West Bengal on Wednesday after an unprecedented tug-of-war over the victim’s body between the police and the family.
Opposition parties led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), threw their weight behind the family's decision to keep the teenager’s body at the office of the party's labour wing, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), before taking it out in a procession to the crematorium on Wednesday.
The State unit of the Congress too threw itself into the protests, demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for failing to ensure the safety of women in West Bengal.
Throughout the day, the Chief Minister maintained a studied silence, but her party general secretary Mukul Roy said the Trinamool Congress’s political opponents were sparing no effort to belittle the State’s prestige before the eyes of the country.
Senior CPI(M) leader Surjya Kanta Mishra said the party did not want to indulge in politics over the issue but had been left with no option.
He met Governor M.K. Narayanan alleging that police took possession of the body from the parents and tried “forcible cremation” late on Tuesday evening, to suppress the evidence.