Sandeshkhali unrest: Police add IPC section for gang rape against 2 TMC leaders | Kolkata - Hindustan Times
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Sandeshkhali unrest: Police add IPC section for gang rape against 2 TMC leaders

Feb 17, 2024 08:48 PM IST

TMC's Hazra was arrested late on Saturday night from Nazat area in North 24 Parganas, police said. He will be produced before the Basirhat court on Sunday

Days after it was alleged that women in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali village were sexually assaulted by the local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders – Uttam Sardar and Shibaprasad Hazra – police on Saturday said that they have added an Indian Penal Code (IPC) section for gang rape against the duo.

Citizens staged protest against Trinamool Congress (TMC) run State Government over violence against women in Sandeshkhali of North 24 Parganas district at Hazra in Kolkata, India, on Thursday, February 15, 2024. (Photo by Samir Jana/ Hindustan Times)
Citizens staged protest against Trinamool Congress (TMC) run State Government over violence against women in Sandeshkhali of North 24 Parganas district at Hazra in Kolkata, India, on Thursday, February 15, 2024. (Photo by Samir Jana/ Hindustan Times)

“We came to know that a woman made a statement under section 164 of CrPC [Code of Criminal Procedure] before a judicial magistrate. We have accepted the complaint, and we will act on any kind of evidence. We have added an IPC section, and we will bring all perpetrators to the book,” West Bengal police chief Rajeev Kumar said on Saturday.

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Also Read: Sandeshkhali: Row deepens as BJP, Congress not allowed to Bengal village

“We will face the truth and establish it. We will take strongest possible actions against anyone against whom there is evidence. We cannot take action on hearsay. We are trying to find the truth,” he said.

Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas has been on the boil over the past 10 days. Villagers, comprising mostly women, had hit the streets demanding the arrest of TMC strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his two aides Sardar and Hazra.

While Sardar was arrested earlier, police said they arrested Hazra late on Saturday night from the Nazat area in North 24 Parganas. He will be produced before the Basirhat court on Sunday.

It has been alleged that the trio grabbed hundreds of acres of farmlands from villagers and turned them into fish farms, women who worked in their poultry farms were threatened and their husbands beaten up if they asked for payments. Villagers, including women, were forced to attend political meetings even at late night and if anyone refused he was beaten up. There have also been allegations of sexual assault.

“Complaints of land grabbing seem to be the primary issue there. Teams from the state land and land reforms department will be visiting the areas and setting up camps. Anyone can lodge their complaints. Villagers can lodge their complaints with the police too,” Kumar said.

Also Read: Bengal: Fresh curbs imposed at Sandeshkhali, political row heats up

With the island on the boil, prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC have been clamped in 19 pockets across seven villages in Sandeshkhali block-II. Political leaders were stopped from entering the areas citing the orders.

“We are reviewing the law and order situation in areas where section 144 CrPC has been imposed and in a day or two will reduce it by half. It is not to restrict political leaders. Some people were trying to give it a communal colour, while some were trying to portray that lawlessness spread in the area and women were being targeted. We are also worried. We had to impose section 144 to bring some order and establish rule of law,” the top cop told the media.

Villagers have alleged that the police turned a blind eye to their complaints against the TMC leaders over the years. Whenever any villager approached the local Sandeshkhali police station, they were told to meet Bhai, as Shahjahan is popularly known, or his aides and settle the dispute.

Asked whether there was a deep-seated rot in the system and whether actions would be taken against erring police officers, Kumar said: “Yes. Why not? There is no denying that incidents have happened and we had to put in a lot of resources. It means there was something wrong. We are trying to address that.”

Also Read: Mamata blames BJP, RSS as tension in Sandeshkhali intensifies

On January 5, Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials were attacked when they went to search the house of Shahjahan. The TMC leader is alleged to have masterminded the attack and has been on the run since then.

Asked why the police have not been able to arrest him to date, he said: “The ED registered a case against him. Have they arrested him? We registered a case against him. They moved the court and got it stopped.”

On Saturday, a team of the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights visited Sandeshkhali after fresh allegations surfaced that miscreants snatched a toddler from his mother and threw him on the ground in front of the police.

“We have come across the allegation. We are investigating,” HM Rehman, SP Basirhat told media.

Meanwhile, Barasat Range deputy inspector general (DIG) Sumit Kumar was transferred and DIG Malda Range was brought in his place. Top government officials, however, said it was a routine transfer and had nothing to do with Sandeshkhali unrest, adding that several other IPS officers were also transferred.

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