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Independent fact-finding team detained by police on way to Sandeshkhali, later released

Six members of an independent fact-finding committee led by former Chief Justice of Patna High Court L Narasimha Reddy were stopped by police as they were proceeding to trouble-torn Sandeshkhali area in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district to probe alleged incidents of atrocities against women.
Last Updated 25 February 2024, 07:32 IST

Kolkata: Six members of an independent fact-finding committee led by former Chief Justice of Patna High Court L Narasimha Reddy were stopped by police as they were proceeding to trouble-torn Sandeshkhali area in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district to probe alleged incidents of atrocities against women.

Citing Section 144 CrPC was in force in parts of Sandeshkhali and it would not be prudent to allow them access to the area even in groups of four-five, senior police officers stopped their convoy at the Bhojerhat area, which is around 52 km from the riverine area, on Basanti Highway.

Reddy, accompanied by former IPS officer Raj Pal Singh, former National Commission for Women member Charu Wali Khanna, advocates O P Vyas and Bhavna Bajaj, and senior journalist Sanjeev Nayak, sat on the wayside vowing to proceed to the area as high drama followed.

The six were detained by police and taken in a vehicle and later released, a police officer said.

"This is completely illegal. We have told the police personnel as law-abiding citizens we will not break rules. No curfew has been imposed in Sandeshkhali. So we can go in two groups. At least two of our women members should be allowed to visit the females who had bore the brunt of atrocities of musclemen enjoying political patronage and impunity from police action in all these days till the media unravelled the shocking truth", Reddy said.

Claiming they were given a copy of the section 144 order as they set off for the journey, he said "The administration cannot stop civil society members of the country to interact with victims of human rights violation. What they (administration) are scared to hide".

He recalled the panel members had been stopped from visiting certain pockets of Howrah, singed by clashes between two groups during Ram Navami, halted at Howrah Bridge last year though others from the ruling party were allowed to go.

Another member of the group told reporters they would "peacefully sit on one side of the road", without hindering the movement of vehicles till being allowed to proceed.

Khanna said "What they have done is nothing but murder of democracy. They have illegally detained us." The group comprising former judge, bureaucrats and journalist was slated to visit Sandeshkhali on February 25 to also probe alleged incidents of Trinamool Congress leaders grabbing residents' land to convert into Bheris (fish farm).

They were scheduled to visit Majherpara, Natun para, Patra para and Naskarpara Ras temple under the jurisdiction of Sandeshkhali police station limits.

The committee is slated to submit a report to the constitutional authorities.

Asked about the police action against the fact-finding team, Sujit Basu, one of the two West Bengal ministers who visited Sandeshkhali for the second day on Sunday, told reporters, "I don't have any knowledge or information about that".

Meanwhile, ISF leader Ayesha Bibi was arrested from Sandeshkhali on Sunday for her alleged involvement in burning poultry farms of arrested local TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra, an officer said.

A few days back a fact-finding team of BJP consisting of Union minister Annapurna Devi, Pratima Bhowmik, MP Sunita Duggal, Kavita Patidar, Sangeeta Yadav and Rajya Sabha member and former director general of police of Uttar Pradesh Brij Lal was stopped by police from entering Sandeshkhali.

On Saturday, a TMC delegation consisting of two West Bengal ministers Partha Bhowmik and Sujit Basu visited different parts of the riverine area, interacted with locals and promised their grievances will be addressed expeditiously.

They had also promised all the guilty involved in alleged atrocities will be brought to book and the ruling party has 'zero tolerance' to wrongdoings of a section of local leaders.

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(Published 25 February 2024, 07:32 IST)

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