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‘Polling officers ink our fingers without letting us vote, cops work as party cadres’: 7 women expose rampant vote rigging by TMC in Sandeshkhali

During an interview with TV9 Bangla, at least 7 women spoke on camera against the election fraud carried out by TMC workers in cahoots with polling officers and the police.

Amid the ongoing unrest in Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, several women have narrated the large-scale vote rigging orchestrated by Trinamool Congress (TMC) goons in the village.

During an interview with TV9 Bangla, at least 7 women spoke on camera against the election fraud carried out by TMC workers in cahoots with polling officers and the police.

“Before I go to the polling station, they tell me that my vote has been cast,” a woman recounted. “If we go to the polling station, the polling officers put ink on our fingers and say that our vote has already been cast…”, another woman informed.

She added, “Men in the village cannot stay here at least 6 months (during to intimidation) before elections…Men dressed in police uniform have even threatened to destroy our homes if we cast votes.”

“They do not allow us to cast our votes,” one victim lamented. Another woman narrated, “Casting votes here is same as not casting your votes.”

Aarati Patra, who had filed nomination papers from the BJP, informed TV9 Bangla, “They warned me that if I contest elections, then, they will beat me with sticks and spades. There are 3 primary goons (Sheikh Shahjahan, Uttam Sardar, Shibu Hazra) but they have a lot of followers.”

Police act as TMC cadres: Sandeshkhali villagers

“There is no voting here. They would threaten people and forcibly take them to the polling station and put ink on their fingers,” she added.

One woman informed, “Even if police are present at the polling station, they do not tell them (TMC goons) anything. They instead work as cadres of the party,”

Another woman said that her family members were sent ‘funeral essentials’ after deciding to contest the Panchayat elections. “One of my uncles contested in the election. On the same evening, they (TMC goons) sent us flower beads, a white saree, and sweets,” she narrated her ordeal.

TMC cries foul, BJP says West Bengal left Bihar behind in election rigging

After the matter came to light, Trinamool Congress leader and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim quickly dismissed the testimonies of the women and claimed that no TMC worker could send ‘white sarees’ to intimidate the villagers.

BJP State President Sukanta Majumdar told TV9 Bangla, “Once upon a time such level of vote rigging used to happen in Bihar. Now that State has improved but we are going backwards. Over 45 people were killed in the last panchayat election and many women have been sexually harassed.”

“Areas such as Sandeshkhali are in now present in several parts of West Bengal,” he added.

Voice in Sandeshkhali

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.

During that time, the TMC goons retaliated and the police acted as mute spectators. In several cases, the cops themselves resorted to harassment of the women. It had come to light that the residents were the subject of sexual violence by the TMC for a long time.

On 10th February, the local police imposed Section 144 in various areas in Sandeshkhali and also banned the use of the Internet in 16 panchayats scattered over the two blocks of Sandeshkhali-I and Sandeshkhali-II.

In a bid to pacify the angry villagers of Sandeshkhali, the TMC leadership suspended Uttam Sardar from the party for six years. The suspended TMC leader and Zilla Parishad member was subsequently arrested in the Sandeshkhali police station area.

The Mamata Banerjee-led-TMC government arrested a former CPI(M) MLA named Nirpada Sardar in connection to the case on 11th February. BJP leader Vikas Singh, who happens to be the Convenor of the Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency, was also arrested in connection to the women’s protest against TMC goons.

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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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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