West Bengal was gripped with violence soon after the ruling TMC won the third term in the assembly elections. The violence allegedly took the lives of at least 12 people, five claimed to be BJP supporters and five others said to be from the TMC. While the State is gripped with post-poll attacks across political parties, a disinformation war has been waged on social media.
Photographs of a woman allegedly raped and murdered in Pingla, West Medinipur district has been widely shared online with the claim that she was a BJP worker. Prashant Patel Umrao, a vocal supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party, shared her pictures. It is noteworthy that Indian law prohibits disclosing the identity of victims of sexual violence.
BJP MP Saumitra Khan wrote in Bengali, “Hathras had political juice. Not Medinipur? Where is the elite class of Kolkata and where are your candles?” Khan also shared a picture of people protesting the woman’s rape and murder.
Former ABVP state organising secretary for Central India Vijay Athwal alleged that the woman was a BJP Mahila Morcha worker. His complete message in Hindi read, “कल रात बंगाल मे सामूहिक बलात्कार हुआ और फिर हत्या कर दी गई। इसका दोष इतना था के ये भाजपा महिला मोर्चा की कार्यकर्ता थी।महामहिम राष्ट्रपति जी से निवेदनराष्ट्रपति शासन लगाया जाए इस बहन को अश्रुपूरित श्रद्धांजलि.”
Ex-national executive member of BJP communications cell Ravi Tiwari claimed that the woman was gang-raped by six men.
Prominent BJP supporters who amplified the claim were Ritu Rathaur, Arpita Jana, @janardanspeaks, Manjeet Yadav, @KashmiriPandit7, @unknowncorner and Dr Santosh Vyas. Rathaur wrote that the incident hasn’t been highlighted because the victim doesn’t hail from the minority community.
It has also been shared with a message in Tamil.
The incident has been reported in regional media and none of the articles states that the woman’s rape and murder was linked to the post-poll violence in West Bengal. According to TV9 Bangla, the woman was found in a half-naked state in an under-construction house behind her residence. Her undergarment was tied around her neck. Three masons, including a woman, working on the under-construction house have been arrested by the police. The incident took place in Pingla’s Jamna village.
Bangla News Live reported that the woman’s father and cousin found her body. It quotes the woman’s aunt accusing the masons of the crime. The police arrested three people – Belda (Medinipur) resident Bikas Murmu (27), Jharkhand resident, Chotu Munda (35) and Tapasi. The men allegedly gang-raped and murdered the woman while Tapasi guarded the door.
West Medinipur SI Sankha Chatterjee told Alt News that the social media claim linking the incident to post-poll violence is false. “Three people have been arrested, including a woman who helped in the construction work of a house behind the deceased’s kaccha house. They were appointed by the family. The accused have confessed to the crime,” he said.
The uncle of the victim told Boomlive that she wasn’t a BJP worker.
Hindustan Times Bangla reported that the woman was 21 years old and a student in Debra College. Her body has been sent for autopsy, the report added. The incident was also reported by Sangbad Pratidin and The Kharagpur Post.
The rape and murder of a woman in West Medinipur has been linked to post-poll violence in West Bengal, despite local reports, the woman’s family and the police denying that the crime was politically or communally motivated.