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Fresh Tension in Sandeshkhali, TMC Files Complaints against NCW, Local BJP Leaders

Fresh Tension in Sandeshkhali, TMC Files Complaints against NCW, Local BJP Leaders

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 12: Even as the Trinamool Congress lodged a formal complaint with the Chief Election Commissioner urging criminal proceedings against National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma and local BJP leaders on Sandeshkhali alleged sexual harassment episode, fresh tension gripped the non-descript island village in West Bengal on Sunday following an alleged attack on some TMC workers by BJP supporters.

The TMC filed the complaint with the election commissioner after multiple women in Sandeshkhali alleged that they were deceived into filling sexual assault complaints against TMC leaders. The complaint alleges forgery, cheating, fraud, criminal intimidation, and criminal conspiracy against women in Sandeshkhali and the wider electorate.

According to reports, Tatan Gayen, an aide of Trinamool MLA Sukumar Mahato, was attacked at a stone’s throw from the local police station. Police reached the spot soon and riot control force was called in. The BJP organised a protest on the island today, with party workers accusing the Trinamool Congress government of foisting false cases against them.

The island village in North 24 Parganas made national headlines after residents accused local Trinamool leaders, led by strongman Sheikh Shahjahan, of land grab, extortion and sexual harassment. Shahjahan, now expelled by Trinamool, is in CBI’s custody in connection with a mob attack on Enforcement Directorate officials.

In a shocking twist earlier last month, a viral video showed local BJP leader Gangadhar Koyal purportedly saying that no rapes or sexual harassment took place in Sandeshkhali and that women were convinced to file complaints on the instruction of BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, leader of Opposition in Bengal Assembly. The BJP and the leader in the video have claimed that the clip was doctored.

In another shock development, a woman has alleged that people linked with the BJP made her sign a blank paper and then wrote a false rape complaint in her name. Claims were also made that the Sandeshkhali women were paid Rs 2,000 each for lodging the false complaints. The developments have sparked a political slugfest, with the Trinamool accusing the BJP of cooking up stories to malign its image for political gains.

BJP workers on Sunday staged a protest outside the local police station and demanded action against local Trinamool leaders, who they alleged were spreading fake videos. Among the protesters was BJP’s candidate from Basirhat, Sandeshkhali resident Rekha Patra.

Speaking to the media, a woman BJP supporter accused the local administration of filing false cases against BJP supporters. “The Trinamool government is harassing us because the ground is slipping from under their feet.” Responding to allegations that the BJP paid women to make sexual harassment allegations, she said, “Did Mamata Banerjee come here even once and see anyone paying us? The mothers of Sandeshkhali have hit the streets for their honour.”

Another woman protester targeted the woman who has accused that BJP leaders filed a false rape complaint in her name. “How much money have they got to claim that everything is a lie? They should be arrested, otherwise the people won’t spare them.”

Trinamool MLA Sukumar Mahato, whose aide was assaulted, has said someone must have instigated the attack. “They had gheraoed the police station. Then they were instigated to attack. Is this political decency?” he told the local media. Local BJP leader Sajal Ghosh has said there was no law in Sandeshkhali for 12 years. “Till today, Trinamool beat up whoever they wanted. Three of our workers were shot dead, their bodies were not found. So today’s incident cannot be called unfortunate,” he told the media.

In Delhi, the TMC complaint to the election commission stem from multiple purported videos shared on a social media platform earlier this week where Sandeshkhali women claimed that a local saffron party leader made them sign blank papers which were later filled up as complaints of sexual assault. Attempts to withdraw the complaint were allegedly met with further intimidation and threats from local BJP members, particularly one Piyali Das, the TMC alleged.

“It is pertinent to mention here that such an act of obtaining a signature on blank paper through coercion to file a false rape complaint is not only an abuse of law and power, but also amounts to offences of forgery, cheating, fraud, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy.,” the TMC said in its complaint to the poll body.

“The exploitation of women for political gain is a reprehensible tactic that undermines their rights and dignity. Such manipulation not only violates the rights of these women but also damages the integrity of democratic institutions,” it added.

The NCW has deviated from its noble mandate and transformed into a predator rather than a protector, the TMC alleged.

“This distressing transformation is evidenced by its alarming collusion with BJP, in perpetrating illegal and unconscionable acts,” it added.

The TMC has demanded the Election Commission take strict action, including initiating criminal proceedings against Rekha Sharma, Priyali Das, and other unnamed BJP members. The party has also sought directives to prevent further intimidation of witnesses and halt the spread of false allegations.

The NCW, however, claimed that the women were coerced into retracting their complaints and sought an inquiry from the Election Commission in the matter. “It has come to the notice of the Commission that the women of Sandeshkhali are being compelled to withdraw their complaints by TMC workers as they are the ruling party in West Bengal,” the women’s panel said in a letter to the ECI.



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