KAMDUNI, WEST BENGAL: Two women of Kamduni village near Kolkata turned from young, class 10-pass housewives into inspiring campaigners for justice for their neighbour who was brutally gang raped and murdered in 2013.
And, what changed their lives? Certainly, the horrific death of their friend but also, chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
On a visit to the victim’s home, Ms Banerjee was confronted by angry women of the village demanding justice. In the crowd were Moushumi Koyal and Tumpa Koyal.
Tumpa caught the brunt of an angry chief minister’s outburst. “You don’t talk too much,” Ms Banerjee shouted at her. “Shame on CPM for doing politics over the issue,” she thundered. Soon after, she called them Maoists.
Tumpa and Moushumi were outraged. “The funny thing is, we were inspired by Didi’s fight for justice for another rape and murder victim, Tapasi Mallik, in Singur,” says Moushumi, 25. “We did what she did and then she called us Maoists.”
They hit the streets with a vengeance. Both headed protests in Kamduni, in Kolkata and even met the President on the issue. They spoke out eloquently when other women were violated. Local news channels fought to get them as guests in their studios.
Born in Kamduni, Tumpa’s parents were too poor to keep her in school past class 10. By June 2013, she had been married off to a marble floor tiles salesman. She now has a 10 month old son. Moushumi, who passed class 10 as well, married a homeopath in Kamduni. Her daughter is in class 5.
Their families have backed the fight but the two women are somewhat embarrassed by the fame thrust upon them as faces of the Kamduni movement.
“I don’t feel like a campaigner or protestor. I am just a housewife, doing chores, teaching my child. Nothing inspiring about us,” says Moushumi. Tumpa says she is often recognised on the streets. “But I tell them, no, no, you are mistaken. I am not Tumpa Koyal,” she says.
When, on January 30, three convicts in the case got the life term and three others death, the two women had just one prayer: “Our friend is no more. We have fought for justice for her. We hope her soul is now at peace.”
So what’s next? Politics? There is no dearth of offers, they admit, and Bengal elections are round the corner. But not now, say both women.
“For now we want to remain neutral and work for women’s rights and safety,” says Moushumi.
Tumpa says, “I have one dream now. I want to bring up my son well, bring him up to respect women. That’s all I want.”