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Sandeshkhali Protests: West Bengal Governor’s move to open ‘Peace Home’ gets all-party support, top TMC leaders resort to politics over alleged ‘Khalistan’ slur

While the Bharatiya Janata Party being the prime opposition party in the state had been raising the issue for a fortnight, fewer voices supporting the victims were heard from the ruling party Trinamool Congress.

West Bengal’s Governor CV Ananda Bose opened a ‘Peace Home‘ at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata on Monday (19th February) to temporarily refuge the aggrieved women of Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district. The governor’s move has received praise across political parties in the state. Two TMC MPs have come to laude this action amid delayed FIRs in this case.

The top leadership of TMC, however, is involved in politics over the alleged ‘Khalistani’ slur against IPS officer Jagmeet Singh affiliated to the West Bengal police, ignoring the real victims of the Sandeshkhali incident. Notably, no such effort from the state machinery run by the TMC government in West Bengal was seen.

Bharatiya Janata Party shared a video on 22nd February explaining the whole ordeal of the women in Sandeshkhali. BJP wrote in the X post, “A truth that’ll shock us. A truth that’ll pain us. A truth that’ll shake our conscience. The Truth of Sandeshkhali that Mamata Banerjee is trying to hide.”

On Monday, the Governor visited Sandeshkhali to meet the victims of the mass rapes of Hindu women by TMC leader Sheikh Shahajahan and his accomplices. According to a statement by the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Governor CV Ananda Bose, Sandip Rajput, it was after this visit that the Governor decided to open the ‘Peace Home’.

He said, “The governor recently visited Sandeshkhali. He had issued a helpline number, so we received several calls. A peace home has been opened in Raj Bhavan in Kolkata to accommodate the victims of Sandeshkhali. The food and water will be made available for free. Many people have expressed their desire to come and Raj Bhawan is ready to accommodate them. We have provided the transportation services. We are fully prepared.”

In a press release from the Raj Bhavan on Monday, Governor CV Ananda Bose said, “I appeal to the law-abiding citizenry, civil society leaders, opinion makers and all political parties to unite in a ‘peace visit’ to Sandeshkhali, to go around the streets there that have been witnessing distrust, scepticism and lawlessness and stand by the law-abiding citizens, and more specifically, the aggrieved women there and tell them the entire country is with them.”

He added, “To my aggrieved sisters of Sandeshkhali, I give my assurance that we are all with you. You need not be afraid. Your rightful place in society shall be secured and you shall be meaningfully empowered to guide your families and society.”

While the Bharatiya Janata Party being the prime opposition party in the state had been raising the issue for a fortnight, fewer voices supporting the victims were heard from the ruling party Trinamool Congress. The prime accused in this case is a TMC leader. Even the West Bengal police did not register any FIR until the NCW chairperson visited Sandeshkhali. However, two TMC MPs expressed their support to West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose’s decision to open the doors of Raj Bhavan for the victim women.

Contai MP Sisir Adhikari and his younger son, Tamluk MP Dibyendu, have commended the governor for acknowledging the plight of the distressed women in Sandeshkhali, located in the North 24 Parganas district. Sisir Adhikari said, “It’s great thinking. The governor must be praised for this. It reminds me how I had organised accommodation for several people from Nandigram during the agitation days to protect them from the goons of the CPI(M).”

Dibyendu Adhikari said, “It’s an unimaginable step you have taken to provide shelter to tortured women from Sandeshkhali on Raj Bhavan premises. I shall be obliged if you please allow me to stand by your side for any support to the victimised women.”

Notably, Sisir Adhikari is the father of West Bengal’s leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari. Suvendu Adhikari also visited Sandeshkhali on Tuesday along with other BJP leaders and party workers. He was stopped from visiting the interiors of the disturbed area by the West Bengal police. During this altercation, IPS officer Jagmeet Singh deployed on the spot alleged that the BJP leader called him a ‘Khalistani’ because the Sikh officer was wearing a turban. A video of the incident also went viral. However, it could not be ascertained as to who exactly made these remarks against the officer.

West Bengal police declared from their X handle that they will investigate this case. BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari challenged the allegations and asked the West Bengal police to prove their allegation within a day. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee attacked BJP before the veracity of the incident was confirmed. She tweeted, “Today, the BJP’s divisive politics has shamelessly overstepped constitutional boundaries. As per BJP, every person wearing a TURBAN is a KHALISTANI. I VEHEMENTLY CONDEMN this audacious attempt to undermine the reputation of our SIKH BROTHERS & SISTERS, revered for their SACRIFICES and UNWAVERING DETERMINATION of our nation. We stand firm in protecting Bengal’s social harmony and will take stern lawful measures to prevent any attempts to disrupt it.”

However, she did not reflect on West Bengal police’s initial inaction in this case where they refused to file any FIR and denied any rape atrocities in Sandeshkhali. Since the Sandeshkhali issue surfaced, the West Bengal police have repeatedly kept replies to their X posts restricted or invisible. This is because the state police machinery has faced heavy criticism from X users all over the country for their inaction against the main accused Sheikh Shahajahan. It was also stated in the Governor’s report that the state police are hand-in-glove with the accused.

However, the West Bengal police have been prompt in arresting journalists reporting this case on the ground. Shantu Pan of Republic Bangla was arrested by the West Bengal police. An FIR against Suman De of the ABP Ananda was also filed in this series of police harassment of journalists reporting Sandeshkhali. BJP state present Dr Sukanta Majumdar posted from his X handle, “Atrocities against Bengal media is on full swing, after Shantu Pan of Republic Bangla, now an FIR is launched against Suman De of ABP Ananda TV. It seems the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government is exercising an undeclared emergency in West Bengal at the moment.”

Not only this, the arrested journalist of Republic Bangla TV Santu Pan was moved from Sandeskhali police station to an undisclosed location on 21st February late in the night. The men escorting him had covered faces and their uniforms had no insignia.

Meanwhile, a 3-member team of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes reached Sandeshkhali on Wednesday to probe the sexual exploitation of the tribal women in the Sandeshkhali incident that took place in the North24 Pargana district of West Bengal.

The background of the controversy

On 8th February this year, hundreds of women in Sandeshkhali took to the streets to protest against land grabbing, non-payment of wages and sexual violence committed by Trinamool Congress goon Sheikh Shahjahan and his two aides Shiba Prasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar.

The women attacked Shahjahan’s illicitly obtained properties and set fire to a poultry farm owned by Shiba Prasad Hazra. They also surrounded the Sandeshkali police station and demanded the immediate arrest of the trio. The agitation in the village lasted for 3 days.

On Friday (17th February), the police arrested TMC leader Shibu Prasad Hazra over land grabbing and sexual exploitation of women in Sandeshkhali. The primary accused Sheikh Shahjahan, is still on the run from the law enforcement authorities.

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