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‘They would sexually exploit beautiful women, beat their husbands if their wives did not comply’: 10 victims recount the reign of terror of TMC in Sandeshkhali

"They (TMC goons) would give alcohol and guns to 14-15 year old children...If we did not participate in politics, they threaten to murder our parents and family members," a woman told AajTak News."

Amid the unrest in Sandeshkhali village in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, several women who were victimised by Trinamool Congress (TMC) goons narrated their ordeal to AajTak journalist Shweta Singh.

During her ground report from Sandeshkhali on Thursday (16th February), a woman told Singh, “They (TMC) forcibly took me from the house and kept me at the party office against my will. I was freed only in the morning. They would tell us that there is a meeting at midnight and we have to be present there.”

“They would come at any time of the day and force us to accompany them. Even if we are cooking at home, we are expected to leave all the household chores and attend party meetings. They have taken over our lands and do not pay us the lease…Where will we go? The cops are not listening to us and filing counter FIRs against women protestors,” another woman was heard saying.

“When we go to ask for our money, they verbally abuse us and take us from our homes by force. If we oppose them, they come to our homes and threaten the men in the house. They threaten to kidnap us if we do not attend party meetings,” another woman narrated.

“They would take us to the party office in the name of the meeting and then proceed to torture us. They would sexually exploit the ‘beautiful women’ and make the others cook food for them or do chores. This would happen day after day. They would assault the men in the family for non-compliance of their wives,” one of the victims shared her ordeal with journalist Shweta Singh.

Another woman recounted the attacks committed on women in Sandeshkhali village for not giving in to the demands of the TMC goons. “They would give alcohol and guns to 14-15 year old children…If we did not participate in politics, they threaten to murder our parents and family members,” she told AajTak News.

“Even if we do not want to vote, they take it by force…Votes are conducted on ballot papers. They take the seal, cast the vote themselves and do not let us to exercise our choice,” another woman exposed the election rigging continuing unabated in the village.

Several victims were seen unwilling to show their faces on camera, fearing retaliation from local TMC goons. “Everyone here (in this village) is a TMC supporter. Despite this, the likes of Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar have usurped our lands (including fisheries). We are in a constant state of terror and hence we cannot show our faces on camera,” a woman narrated.

“They used to coerce us into coming to the party office and tell us that we are not allowed to go home. They used to call us ‘sexy’ and wanted us to bring 200-400 more women to party meetings. They told us that we needed to entertain them, or else they would not spare us,” another woman informed.

One victim told Shweta Singh, “The police never helped us. They stood by the likes of Shibu Hazra. We had no say in this matter. They would come anytime and take was with them. They would thrash our husbands if we did not accompany them. If we did not voluntarily go the party office, then, they wo”uld send someone on bikes to take us away against our will. We had to entertain them. There was no other way out…Mamata Didi has never come here. In fact, none came here to check on us. Mamata Didi is saying that nothing has happened in Sandeshkhali? Are we lying?

She emphasised.”If Shibu Hazra And Shahjahan Sheikh are out in the open, then anything can happen to us including murder. We think that the duo can kill us when we are home. We live without husbands and children. We will not be able to stop them. We want peace. As long as they are arrested, we will not have peace of mind. If they are not arrested, then, we will not be able to stay in our homes. There will be more terror in the area, if they are not arrested,” she added. The woman pointed out added that the ordeal has been continuing since 2011.

Forced by circumstances, a local woman was seen taking the TMC dispensation head-on in Sandeshkhali. She was seen carrying her Aadhar card and reiterating the fact that she is a native of Sandeskhali. “No more hiding face. We will now speak out openly,” the brave woman declared.

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.

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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