Mamata claims Sandeshkhali incident orchestrated by BJP with ED's help; Saffron camp hits back

Mamata claims not a single woman in Sandeshkhali has lodged any FIR and it was she who had directed the police to initiate a suo motu case in this connection.
Last Updated : 18 February 2024, 17:04 IST
Last Updated : 18 February 2024, 17:04 IST

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Suri/New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday pointed fingers at the BJP for instigating the turmoil in Sandeshkhali, eliciting a swift rebuttal from the BJP, which in turn accused the TMC and the state government of complicity in crimes against women.

As the situation in Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas, gradually returns to normalcy following a week of protests alleging atrocities on villagers and sexual harassment of women by local Trinamool Congress leaders, a TMC delegation including three ministers, visited the area.

They pledged zero tolerance against any wrongdoing while questioning the actions of BJP-led governments in states facing similar allegations.

Meanwhile, Sukanta Majumdar, West Bengal BJP president, announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address a women's rally in Barasat, located in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, on March 7.

Addressing a public distribution program in Suri, Banerjee asserted her initiative in directing the police to initiate a case in Sandeshkhali, emphasising that no woman from the area had filed an FIR.

"An incident has happened (in Sandeshkhali). It was made to happen. First, they (BJP) sent the Enforcement Directorate (ED), and then ED's friend, the BJP entered Sandeshkhali along with some media which started creating hullabaloo," Banerjee said.

This marks the second occasion in the past four days where the chief minister has levied accusations against the BJP for inciting unrest in the region.

Since the first week of February, villages in Sandeshkhali block in North 24 district have witnessed protests over allegations of sexual atrocities on women and land grabbing by TMC leaders.

The police have so far arrested 18 people including local TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar in connection with the incidents of violence at Sandeshkhali. They have also added sections of 'gangrape' and 'attempted murder' against three of the prime accused, one of whom is still absconding.

Hazra, who was arrested last night, was remanded to eight days of police custody by a court in Basirhat.

Banerjee said that she would be sending her officers to Sandeshkhali who would talk to the locals there to find out if the complaints were genuine.

"In Bengal, if people are tortured, we take action. I am sending officers who will listen to the people and if it is found that someone has taken things from them, they will get back everything. It's my promise," the chief minister said.

The BJP dubbed the allegations levelled by Banerjee "baseless".

"The law and order has completely broken down in Bengal. The truth is the TMC and the state government officials, be it police or local administration, were hand in glove while committing atrocities on locals. This is the true picture of West Bengal," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said in New Delhi.

The Bengal BJP also cited a National Commission for Women (NCW) report which revealed a troubling pattern of negligence and complicity by the state government and law enforcement officials.

Majumdar said the Prime Minister's proposed rally is scheduled to take place on March 7, a day before International Women's Day, and will be held at the headquarters of North 24-Parganas district where Sandeshkhali is situated.

Sensing the escalating public discontent, a delegation from the TMC, consisting of three ministers, visited Sandeshkhali on Sunday.

They spoke to locals, affirming the party's commitment to maintaining "zero tolerance against any wrongdoing."

Senior minister Sujit Bose asked what action the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur have taken in alleged cases of atrocities there.

This is the second visit by a TMC delegation in the last week.

A delegation of NCW led by its chairperson Rekha Sharma is scheduled to visit Sandeshkhali on Monday.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI or SIT probe into the violence in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali village.

A large number of women in Sandeshkhali accused Trinamool Congress strongman Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters of "land-grab and sexually assaulting" them under coercion.

Shajahan has been absconding after a mob, allegedly affiliated with him, attacked Enforcement Directorate officials who had gone to search his premises in connection with a ration scam on January 5.

Published 18 February 2024, 17:04 IST

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