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TMC men touched us whenever, wherever they liked...hard to speak up even now: Women recall Sandeshkhali horror

Several women broke their silence and came forward, recounting horrific incidents of systemic gang rape and sexual exploitation, wherein they were called in on the pretext of self-help group (SHG) meetings and touched inappropriately by TMC leaders.
Last Updated 15 February 2024, 17:13 IST

The Sandeshkhali horror has now taken a political turn, with BJP leaders clashing with the state police in TMC-ruled West Bengal in support of the protesting survivors.

The political conflict between the ruling TMC and the opposition BJP in West Bengal escalated when the opposition called for action against TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides including party leader Uttam Sardar, over allegations of sexual harassment.

Several women have since broken their silence and come forward, recounting horrific incidents of systemic gang rape and sexual exploitation by the TMC leaders. According to a report by The Indian Express, these women were selected, taken to a TMC party office, or school buildings, and were only released once TMC leaders were 'satisfied.'

With a significant number of women taking to the streets, the protest continued for the seventh consecutive day on Wednesday, with the agitators demanding the arrest of these TMC leaders.

As per Reading Room, despite submitting detailed letters to the West Bengal government, the allegations by the women remained unaddressed. It was only when TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan escaped following an ED investigation related to the ration scam that the women decided to come forward.

Some women spoke to The Indian Express and claimed they kept silent out of fear. The women also revealed that the police were complicit and often pressured complainants to 'settle the matter.'

A woman told The Indian Express, "You must understand how hard it is to speak up even now. But we did. Because Sheikh Shahjahan is absconding and TMC leaders are on the backfoot."

One of the women who spoke to The Indian Express narrated, “What do you call summoning us at 10 pm under the pretext of a meeting? Touching us whenever they like and wherever they like, pulling our saree? I went through that so many times and I am not alone.”

The woman, in her 20s, stated that she, like the others, is a “TMC supporter” and a member of a self-help group (SHG) operating under the panchayat. They were called at odd hours under the guise of SHG meetings, and this has "been going on since 2020."

Another woman, also in her 20s, alleged that TMC leaders used to call them for meetings, sometimes of the SHG and sometimes of the party, but "our husbands were not called".

"When we went there, there was a quick ‘party meeting’ saying we will have to work for its victory. Some of us cooked and a section of women, including me, were told to stay back. They would pull my saree and touch me inappropriately. I kept quiet because I knew what would have happened if I protested," the woman was quoted as saying by IE.

The same woman alleged that her family’s "bigha" of land was also grabbed by TMC leaders and turned into a fishery.

Another woman alleged that a list was kept of those who failed to turn up at the meetings. "Once, when I couldn’t attend because of my health, my husband was beaten up at the market," she recounted.

"Sometimes they coerced me to sit on their motorbikes while they took us there. I couldn’t say no," she added.

Another woman said, "We all voted for the TMC here … When the Governor came, I was there. All the women were. We told him what was happening here."

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(Published 15 February 2024, 17:13 IST)

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