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Sandeshkhali 2.0: Women take to streets in Howrah’s Panchla over illegal land grab by TMC leader Sheikh Khalil Ahmed

According to ABP Ananda, goons associated with Sheikh Khalil Ahmed attacked the residents of Panchla on Sunday (18th February) after the latter objected to their illegal activities.

On Monday (19th February), a large group of women took to the streets in Panchla town in the Howrah district of West Bengal over incidents of illegal land grabbing by a local Trinamool Congress leader named Sheikh Khalil Ahmed.

Armed with sticks and brooms, they were seen protesting against the filling of sand in the town’s largest water body, which is spread over 360 bighas. The women have accused Khalil and his men of illegally occupying the land of farmers.

They also said that the TMC leader has also purchased land at throwaway prices. According to ABP Ananda, goons associated with Sheikh Khalil Ahmed attacked the residents of Panchla on Sunday (18th February) after the latter objected to their illegal activities.

A police complaint to this effect was later filed by the victims with the local police. As such on Monday (19th February), the women of Panchla town took matters into their own hands and stopped vehicles carrying sand to the town’s largest water body.

A state of chaos ensued in the area, post which a police team reached the spot to pacify the angry demonstrators. A contingent of RAF (Rapid Action Force) was also deployed by the State government to stop the women-led agitation.

In the meantime, local TMC MLA Gulshan Mullick has cried foul over the matter and accused the BJP of supposedly ‘politicising’ the incident. He also claimed that the saffron party ‘instigated’ the women to take to the street with brooms and sticks.

While speaking about the development to News18 Bangla, a woman informed, “We had a Dighi (water body) which is now being filled. They have taken our land and also filled sand on it. We are left with nothing to eat.”

She added that the Dighi was used by the residents of Panchla town for taking baths, immersing the idols of deities and doing everyday tasks. “They did not buy this land but started filling it with sand. So we are protesting against this.”

A local BJP leader, identified as Poulomi Adak, stated, “The main occupation here is farming. In order to destroy the livelihoods of local residents, they (TMC goons) decided to fill up the Dighi with sand. As a result, the areas will be flooded during the monsoon season.”

She added, “The local administration, panchayat, Block Development Officer (BDO) is absolutely ineffective. And this is happening under the watch of Khalil who is the Deputy Panchayat Head here.”

Similar situation in Sandeshkhali village

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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