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Mamata Banerjee, who has a history of downplaying rape cases, passes off Sandeshkhali unrest as ‘minor incident’: What happened

Mamata Banerjee went to browbeat about the arrest of 2 accused in Sandeshkhali while failing to mention that the primary accused Sheikh Shahjahan is still on the run from law enforcement authorities.

Amid the unrest in Sandeshkhali village in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee on Sunday (18th February) attempted to downplay the harassment and sexual exploitation of women at the hands of Trinamool Congress goons.

During a public meeting at Birbhum, she dubbed the unrest in Sandeshkhali as a ‘minor incident’ and blamed the BJP and the media for amplifying the issue in the public discourse.

At about 55:15 minutes into the programme, the West Bengal Chief Minister remarked, ” An incident has happened or rather made to happen. First, they sent the ED (Enforcement Directorate), then its friend BJP came entered the scene.”

“After that, some media houses capitalised on the incident. Made a hue and cry out of a minor incident,” Mamata Banerjee was heard saying.

After trivialising the seriousness of the matter, she ‘promised’ to send officers to Sandeshkhali to listen to the grievances of the villagers. This is despite the fact that the victims have accused the police of being mute spectators to the atrocities committed against women

The West Bengal Chief Minister then claimed to return everything if it had been forcibly taken from the residents of Sandeshkhali. Then, she alleged that no woman has ever complained about her not fulfilling any of her promises.

Mamata Banerjee went to browbeat about the arrest of 2 accused in Sandeshkhali while failing to mention that the primary accused Sheikh Shahjahan is still on the run from law enforcement authorities.

This is however not the first time that Mamata Banerjee has brushed aside atrocities on women as ‘minor incident.’

Mamata Banerjee, TMC and dismissing rape cases

An Anglo-Indian woman, Suzette Jordan, was raped in a moving car by five men on February 6, 2012, when she was returning home from Park Street in Kolkata.

Soon after the news surfaced, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee absolved the accused of all charges. She had dubbed the incident as ‘shajano ghotona‘ (concocted incident), which was allegedly ‘designed to malign the government.’

While speaking to a news channel, TMC MP Kakoli Ghose Dhastidar cast aspersions on the character of the victim and also ruled out the rape angle.

Rape survivor Suzette Jordan, image via Livemint

She stated, “If you are referring to the Park Street case, see that’s a different one altogether. It’s not at all a rape case. It was a misunderstanding between two people in a professional dealing between the lady and her client.”

At the same time, the then Transport Minister had also questioned the victim’s character and called the complaint fake. 3 years later in 2015, a Kolkata Court upheld the rape charges in the Park Street case and found accused Nasir Khan, Ruman Khan and Sumit Bajaj guilty.

In 2013, during a debate in the West Bengal legislative assembly about the rising cases of rapes in the State, the CM had insinuated that it was due to an increase in the population of the State. She had also blamed modernisation, an increase in shopping malls and multiplexes for rising rape cases.

During another rape case in Burdwan’s Katwa in the same year, Mamata Banerjee again dismissed the rape allegations, even before the investigation was concluded.

“A political party is doing all this, shouting rape. They are playing this drama. Harmader diye natok shajachhe jatey Banglar nam kharap hochhe (They are staging an act to give a bad name to West Bengal)”, she was heard as saying.

Screengrab of the Telegraph report

In April 2022, Mamata Banerjee courted controversy after she tried to downplay allegations of brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl as a ‘love affair’ gone wrong.

The incident, in question, took place on April 4, 2022, in the Shyamnagar locality in Hanskhali Block Number- I in the Nadia district of West Bengal. The accused has been identified as one Brajgopal, the son of Trinamool Congress (TMC) Gajna Gram Panchayat member Samar Gowla.

While speaking at the inauguration of the revamped Milan Mela on April 11, she claimed, “As a layman, I am saying where would someone get the evidence whether the girl was actually raped or pregnant. Or was there any other reason, like someone beat her up or she died of some illness?”

“There was a love affair for sure, her family knew about it, and their neighbours also knew about it. Now if a girl and a boy love each other, I cannot punish them”, alleged Mamata Banerjee. In April last year, the West Bengal CM stirred the hornet’s nest after she claimed that the alleged ‘rape and murder case’ in Kaliganj was a ‘love affair’ gone wrong.

While addressing a press conference at Nabanna (State Secretariat), she claimed, “Amader o dukho hoi… Kintu amra Whatsapp total ta peyechi…Tader modhe ekta bhalobashar udyog o chilo (We feel bad about it….But we have seen Whatsapp messages… There was a love affair.”

“Doctors said she had taken poison. It’s a suicide case. The police are investigating,” she was quoted as saying. Although the investigation is in a preliminary stage, Mamata Banerjee went out of her way to suggest that there was no foul play in the death of the Kaliganj victim.

On 21st April 2023, the dead body of a 17-year-old Dalit girl was discovered floating in a canal in the Kaliagunj area in Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal. The kins of the victim alleged that the teenager was raped prior to her murder.

The girl had gone missing on her way to tuition classes on April 20. As per reports, the police had arrested two individuals, including one Javed Akhtar, who was known to the victim. The National Commission of Women (NCW) has taken cognisance of the matter.

While her recent remarks have stirred a hullabaloo in political circles of West Bengal, there is nothing surprising given that Mamata Banerjee has a stellar record at victim-blaming and downplaying atrocities on women.

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