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Mamata Banerjee’s Stance Against Injustice: Reflections on the Sandeshkhali Controversy

Amid a controversy surrounding the alleged sexual harassment of women in Sandeshkhali, West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has emphasized her commitment to justice and accused the BJP of instigating unrest in the North 24 Parganas district.

During a session in the Assembly, Ms. Banerjee stated, “I have always stood against injustice. Upon receiving reports, I promptly dispatched representatives from the state women’s commission to Sandeshkhali, leading to the arrest of 17 individuals.” This declaration came shortly after the BJP walked out in protest on the same issue.

Pointing fingers at the BJP for the turmoil in the region, the Trinamool Congress leader alleged that the Central government had targeted local Trinamool leader Sheikh Shahjahan through the Enforcement Directorate. She claimed, “The sequence of events began with the targeting of Sheikh Shahjahan by the Enforcement Directorate, followed by the deliberate escalation of tension by external elements brought in by the BJP. Notably, Sandeshkhali harbors an RSS presence, and past incidents of violence have occurred in the area.”

Sheikh Shahjahan, a prominent local figure, has been evading authorities for a month following a violent confrontation between ED officials and a mob during a raid on his residence.

Ms. Banerjee mentioned that a police team is engaging with women in Sandeshkhali, conducting door-to-door visits to address any grievances. She affirmed, “Our female officers are actively interacting with the residents. Should any complaints arise, we will investigate them thoroughly.”

The spotlight fell on Sandeshkhali after certain women accused Sheikh Shahjahan’s associates of sexual misconduct, prompting the BJP to criticize the state government. In response, the ruling party dismissed the allegations as an attempt to destabilize the region, maintaining a fragile peace on the island.

A recent visit by NDTV to Sandeshkhali involved discussions with several women, revealing a complex narrative. While the BJP’s claims of sexual violence were refuted, reports surfaced of women being coerced to visit the Trinamool office at odd hours under threats. Some women disclosed instances of spousal abuse.

One protester expressed, “These incidents couldn’t have been fabricated. Why would women risk their safety and protest if there wasn’t some truth to their claims? We live in constant fear.” Another woman recounted how Shahjahan’s associates would summon them arbitrarily, resorting to intimidation tactics if they resisted.

The women specifically named Shahjahan’s aides, Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar, with Sardar already in custody while Hazra remains at large.

Allegations of mistreatment by Trinamool leaders also surfaced, with one woman detailing, “They would coerce us by threatening our husbands, physically assaulting them until we complied with their demands.”

The West Bengal Police denounced the dissemination of false information by certain media outlets, emphasizing that no reports of sexual abuse have been substantiated by the State Women’s Commission, a specialized fact-finding team, or the district police following thorough investigations into the matter.