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Sandeshkhali Woman Claims Rape Charges Concocted, TMC – BJP Blame Game Intensifies

Sandeshkhali Woman Claims Rape Charges Concocted, TMC – BJP Blame Game Intensifies

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 9: The political blame game between the ruling Trinamool Congress and its main challenger BJP in West Bengal over the Sandeshkhali rape and land grab allegations intensified further on Thursday after an alleged rape victim claimed the entire episode to be a fake one build up by the BJP for electoral gains.

Giving another twist to the Sandeshkhali row, the woman alleged that people linked with the BJP made her sign a blank paper and then wrote a false rape complaint in her name. The TMC quickly accused the BJP of spreading falsehood over Sandeshkhali raising incidents of violence and complaints of sexual exploitation with the BJP retorting back claiming that “several such attempts are and will be made to confuse the people of India.”

As charges and rebuttals flew thick and fast, an alleged rape victim was said to have withdrawn her complaint. In a video that has gone viral, she said a person linked to the BJP made her sign a blank paper that was later used to falsely accuse TMC men of raping her.

Speaking to the media, a Sandeshkhali resident said that the day a team of the National Commission for Women visited the island, a woman named Piyali called them to share their complaints. “I told them that we had not received money as part of the 100 days’ job scheme. I only wanted that money and had no other complaint. No rape happened. She (Piyali) made us sign on a blank sheet,” the woman said, adding that she later came to know that she is on the list of women who alleged rape by local Trinamool leaders.

The woman’s daughters-in-law accused Piyali of defaming Sandeshkhali. “She is an outsider, she has come from somewhere else and talks big. We don’t know how she has information about everyone here. Initially, she would just take part in the protests here. We later came to know she is with the BJP. She should be punished for lying to us and trapping us. I’m sure more people were deceived like this,” they said. The woman and her family said they are now receiving threats for coming out against Piyali.

In a video the woman is seen alleging that she and some others wanted to complain about not receiving money for the 100-days MGNREGA job scheme, but they were told to sign a blank paper. “Nothing such as rape happened to us. We are not involved in those things. We are poor people and we work hard to earn a living,” she purportedly said in the clip. Another alleged Sandeshkhali resident echoed that they have become victims of a scheme orchestrated by BJP leader Piyali Das, who she said tarnished their image.

The video surfaced days after another clipping went viral, showing a local functionary of the BJP claiming that the leader of the opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, orchestrated the Sandeshkhali episode that put the TMC on the back foot.

The video showed Gangadhar Koyal, a local mandal president, purportedly admitting that no rapes or sexual harassment took place in Sandeshkhali and that women were convinced to file such complaints at the directions of Mr Adhikari. The BJP and the leader in the video have claimed that the clip was doctored and his voice edited. The BJP has said the clip was generated using artificial intelligence.

The Trinamool Congress, which was on the back foot after local party leaders were accused of rape, land grab and extortion, has latched on to the woman’s allegations and accused the BJP of cooking up stories to malign the ruling party for political gains.

After Thursday’s video, the TMC said it raised a complaint with the Election Commission. “This again proves that the BJP is spreading falsehood. We have also complained to the Election Commission. This despicable act of fabrication and intimidation will not go unpunished,” senior TMC leader and state minister Shashi Panja said.

Sandeshkhali comes under Basirhat constituency from where the BJP fielded Rekha Patra, a woman of Sandeshkhali who is also an alleged victim. The riverine region hit the headlines recently when a group of women protested accusing now-expelled TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh and his associates of sexually assaulting them and land grab. Sheikh and a few others were arrested later.

The BJP hit back swiftly, calling Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee “beyond evil.” “First, she denied that her close aide Sheikh Shahjahan and his henchmen raped the women of #Sandeshkhali and grabbed poor people’s land. No less than the DGP of West Bengal, a Mamata Banerjee loyalist, camped in Sandeshkhali for days, but couldn’t erase traces of the crimes. Later, WB Govt was forced to file FIRs for both offences,” BJP leader Amit Malviya said.

In a lengthy post, he pointed out that over 700 affidavits were received from Sandeshkhali “detailing horrible crimes, ranging from rape, assault, land grab, violence and intimidation, among others” after the Calcutta High Court’s intervention — and accused the TMC of launching “a systematic campaign to malign the victims of Sandeshkhali and weaken their movement for justice.”

Trinamool MP Sushmita Dev alleged that the BJP was threatening the “courageous women of Sandeshkhali for daring to speak out against them.” “How much longer will this party persist in spinning webs of deceit, shamelessly trampling on the dignity of our mothers and sisters for their own political greed?” she asked.

The BJP hit back, describing Trinamool’s allegations as a damage control exercise that has come too late. Party spokesperson Priyanka Tibrewal said the Trinamool must understand that there is no use crying over spilt milk. “Why is Trinamool responding now? Why were they quiet for two-three months. They earlier said the women (of Sandeshkhali) were lying, now they are saying they were made to lie. Whatever damage had to happen has happened. There is no smoke without fire,” she said.

The Trinamool Congress has now registered a complaint with the Election Commission against several BJP leaders, including Suvendu Adhikari, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, accusing them of levelling fabricated allegations in the Sandeshkhali matter.

The nondescript island in North 24 Parganas made headlines in February when local residents accused strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides of harassing them. Shahjahan, now expelled by the Trinamool Congress, was arrested after he was on the run for over a month in a case relating to a mob attack on Enforcement Directorate officials probing him. He is now in the CBI’s custody.



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