Mamata Banerjee On Sandeshkhali Row

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Mamata Banerjee Responds To Big Row: 'There's RSS Base In Sandeshkhali'

Amid a political storm over the alleged sexual harassment of women in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she has “never allowed injustice” and accused the BJP of inciting trouble on the island in North 24 Parganas district.

“I have never allowed injustice in my life. I sent (representatives of) the state women’s commission (to Sandeshkhali) immediately and 17 people have been arrested,” Ms Banerjee said in the Assembly, shortly after main Opposition BJP staged a walkout over the raging issue.

Blaming the BJP for the unrest on the island, the Trinamool Congress chief said the Centre had targeted local Trinamool leader Sheikh Shahjahan through the Enforcement Directorate. “First, they entered the area and targeted Sheikh Shahjahan though ED and then they started the trouble there by getting people in. There is an RSS base in Sandeshkhali. There were riots earlier too,” she said. 

Shahjahan, a local strongman, has been on the run for a month now after ED officials who visited the island to raid his home came under a mob attack.

Ms Banerjee said a police team is meeting women in Sandeshkhali. “A police team of women are going door to door to see if there are any complaints. If they file a report, we will look into it,” she said.

Sandeshkhali has hit headlines after a section of women there accused Sheikh Shahjahan’s aides of sexual harassment. The BJP has targeted the Trinamool Congress government in the state over the allegations. The ruling party has trashed the charges and said the BJP is trying to create unrest in the area. The island, meanwhile, has an uneasy calm.

NDTV visited Sandeshkhali yesterday and spoke to several women. The conversations revealed that while the BJP’s allegations of rape and sexual violence may not be true, many women were called to the Trinamool office at odd hours and threatened if they refused. Some women also said that their husbands were being tortured.

One woman, who participated in the protests earlier, told NDTV, “These incidents must have taken place, otherwise why will the women say these things? You must enquire for yourself. Why else will women come out on the streets and speak out? Are they lying? There must be truth in these statements. We are living in fear. We don’t come out of our homes because of fear,” she added.

Another woman said, “They (Shahjahan’s aides) would call women for meetings or rallies but there was no fixed time. It could be day or night. We would have to go whenever they called us and if we didn’t, they would threaten us.”

The women named Shahjahan’s aides, Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar. While Sardar has been arrested, Hazra is on the run.

One of the women alleged that the Trinamool leaders would torture them. “They targeted women by picking up their husbands and beating them up with a stick in the party office. If we refused to go to the party office, they would pick up the men and thrash them so we would be forced to go,” she said.

The West Bengal Police have said a section of media is spreading “wilful misinformation” to mislead people about the events in Sandeshkhali.”

“It is reiterated that no allegations of sexual torture of women have so far been received during the enquiries since conducted by the State Women’s Commission, an all-women 10-member fact-finding team led by DIG CID, and also the district police,” police have said.

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