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Sandeshkhali violence: NHRC issues notice to West Bengal government, to dispatch a team for ‘on-spot’ inquiry

Recognising the seriousness of the situation, the Commission has also decided to dispatch a team to investigate and gather facts through an on-site inquiry into the incidents of "violence of human rights" in Sandeshkhali, located in the North 24 Parganas district, as per the officials.

Officials announced on Wednesday that the National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the West Bengal government and the state’s police chief regarding reports of “unabated human rights violations” due to ongoing violence in the turbulent area of Sandeshkhali.

Recognising the seriousness of the situation, the Commission has also decided to dispatch a team to investigate and gather facts through an on-site inquiry into the incidents of “violence of human rights” in Sandeshkhali, located in the North 24 Parganas district, as per the officials.

The team, led by an NHRC member, will be supported by officers from the rights panel, according to a statement.

The NHRC has taken “suo motu cognisance of print and electronic media reports that in Sandeshkhali, North 24th Paraganas, West Bengal, innocent and impoverished women have been harassed and sexually assaulted by a group of local gang of a political person, as a result of which, for last few days, local villagers have started protesting for appropriate legal action against the perpetrators of horrific crimes indulged by various goons and anti-social elements, when the local administration failed to take appropriate legal action against the perpetrators of crime,” it said.

The rights panel also stated that there have been reports of the safety and security of women, children, and elderly individuals being allegedly “jeopardised.” According to the statement, this has led to women purportedly leaving their homes due to the looming threats of torture and sexual abuse.

The Commission has noted that recent events in Sandeshkhali, as reported by various media outlets, “indicate a prima facie violation of human rights, shocking the conscience.”

“Thus, it is essential for the Commission to exercise its jurisdiction under Section 12(a) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to uphold, safeguard, and promote human rights and to take suo motu cognisance of the reported instances of violence,” the statement explained.

Consequently, it has issued notices to the chief secretary and the director general of police of West Bengal, requesting reports within four weeks concerning the violence and the actions taken or planned against the perpetrators, as stated in the statement.

The Commission has also inquired whether any compensation has been provided or is intended to be provided to the victims.

“In issuing these notices, the Commission has additionally emphasized that life is inherently precious, encompassing the rights to dignity, freedom, equality, and liberty. It is the solemn duty of the State to safeguard these rights as guaranteed by the constitution,” it added.

Sandeshkhali saw a series of protests after local women accused Trinamool Congress leader Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters of “land-grabbing and sexual assault” under coercion.

Shajahan has been on the run since a group, purportedly linked to him, attacked officials from the Enforcement Directorate who were searching his premises in connection with a ration scam on January 5th.

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