Mamata blames BJP, RSS as tension in Sandeshkhali intensifies | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Mamata blames BJP, RSS as tension in Sandeshkhali intensifies

By, Kolkata
Feb 16, 2024 01:18 AM IST

Sandeshkhali, a village in North 24 Parganas district, has been witnessing tensions since January 7.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for tensions in Sandeshkhali, and claimed that Sheikh Shahjahan, the absconding Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader at the centre of a host of allegations that range from money laundering to harassment, was being targeted.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (ANI)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. (ANI)

The TMC chief also said her government was investigating the complaints that have emerged from the violence-hit region, asserting she has “never tolerated injustice in her life”.

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Sandeshkhali, a village in North 24 Parganas district, has been witnessing tensions since January 7, when an Enforcement Directorate team that arrived to raid Shahjahan’s house in connection with a money-laundering case was attacked by a mob. Even as Shahjahan has evaded arrest, since February 7, villagers led by local women have held violent protests against alleged harassment and exploitation by local TMC leaders.

Speaking in the state assembly on Thursday, Banerjee said the RSS — the ideological fountainhead of the BJP — has a “shelter in Sandeshkhali.”

“Among the places prone to riots in West Bengal, Sandeshkhali is one. We strongly handled (law and order) during the Saraswati Puja (on Wednesday), otherwise I doubt whether we could have at all held the puja. There was some planning that was going on,” she claimed.

The CM alleged that some of 17 accused arrested by the police for fomenting violence in the area were BJP workers. “Those who were posing before the cameras wearing masks have been held and outsiders were brought in to spread tension in the area. The target was Sheikh Shahjahan. ED first entered the area targeting him and after ousting everyone they created a rift between the local tribal and minority populations,” she said.

RSS spokesperson Ajay Kumar Nandi denied Banerjee’s charges. “The RSS cannot be her political opponent. Her appeasement politics has prompted Hindus to launch a protest because they now find their backs against the wall. RSS has nothing to do with this… [it] is engaged in social work and has nothing to do with politics,” Nandi said.

Banerjee said while some people may have grievances, her government would look into it, and pointed to visits to Sandeshkhali by the state women’s commission and a 10-member police team formed to probe allegations. “You know I have never tolerated injustice in my life. It was I who took the initiative to send a delegation of state women’s commission, a team of the state administration and 17 people have been arrested… A police team is visiting door-to-door to find out if there are any grievances. Once they file a report, we will work on it. But first, I need to know the facts,” Banerjee said.

The BJP, however, attacked Banerjee over her “cruel” and “anti-women” comments. “Banerjee has made some shameful statements in the state assembly. She questioned why village women were covering their faces while narrating the sexual harassment and threatened to arrest them. She said Sandeshkhali is a bunker of RSS. What do you mean by this Mamata ji? Why have you become so cruel, so ugly and so anti-women?” senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a press conference in Delhi.

Late on Wednesday, the West Bengal police rejected allegations of sexual harassment, saying misinformation was being spread to mislead people. “No allegations about rape have so far been received during the enquiries since conducted by the state women’s commission, an all-women 10-member fact-finding team led by DIG of CID and the district police,” police said in a statement.

The National Commission for Women, which also has a team in Sandeshkhali, however, said victims were being threatened against reporting instances of sexual and physical harassment. A team from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, led by chairman Arun Halder, also visited the violence-hit village on Thursday.

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari was, however, prevented from visiting the area by the police, after which he staged a sit-in demonstration in Damakhali. “The Calcutta high court had on Tuesday set aside prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC clamped in Sandeshkhali. Despite that I was stopped. I will move the high court on Friday. We have video and audio clippings. I hope the court will consider,” the leader of opposition said.

To be sure, fresh prohibitory orders were clamped in 19 pockets across seven villages of Sandeshkhali-II block hours after the HC order on Tuesday.

BJP president JP Nadda has set up a six-member committee led by Union minister Annapurna Devi which will visit Sandeshkhali on Friday. The panel has been asked to collect information from the area and filed a report to Nadda at the earliest.

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