Bengal: NCW team to visit Sandeshkhali today; TMC alleges ‘political motivation’
People hold aloft a banner in a protest march in Kolkata on February 18 against the violence in Sandeshkhali | Photo: PTI

Bengal: NCW team to visit Sandeshkhali today; TMC alleges ‘political motivation’

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear today a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI or SIT probe into the violence

A delegation of the National Commission for Women (NCW) led by its chairperson Rekha Sharma is scheduled to visit unrest-hit Sandeshkhali on Monday (February 19).

Last week two members of NCW had visited the area and submitted a report revealing a "troubling pattern of negligence and complicity" by the West Bengal government and law enforcement officials.

"We want to talk to the victims. We will then meet the West Bengal governor and then the president in New Delhi tomorrow. Even if one incident takes place, then it is shameful," Sharma said.

She alleged that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government is "not allowing the state administration to cooperate" with central agencies.

Mamata accuses BJP of instigating turmoil

The TMC, however, dubbed the visit by NCW as politically motivated.

"The NCW is quick to visit West Bengal. But has never shown similar promptness in visiting BJP-ruled states," party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday (February 18) accused the BJP of instigating the turmoil in Sandeshkhali. This elicited a swift rebuttal from the BJP, which in turn accused the TMC and the state government of being complicit in the crimes against women.

Addressing a public distribution program in Suri, Banerjee asserted her initiative in directing the police to initiate a case in Sandeshkhali, emphasising that no woman from the area had filed an FIR.

"An incident has happened (in Sandeshkhali). It was made to happen. First, they (BJP) sent the Enforcement Directorate (ED), and then ED's friend, the BJP entered Sandeshkhali along with some media which started creating hullabaloo," Banerjee said.

This marks the second occasion in the past four days where the chief minister has levied accusations against the BJP for inciting unrest in the region.

Banerjee said that she would be sending her officers to Sandeshkhali who would talk to the locals there to find out if the complaints were genuine.

"In Bengal, if people are tortured, we take action. I am sending officers who will listen to the people and if it is found that someone has taken things from them, they will get back everything. It's my promise," the chief minister said.

BJP calls Mamata’s allegations ‘baseless’

The BJP dubbed the allegations levelled by Mamata "baseless".

"Law and order have completely broken down in Bengal. The truth is the TMC and the state government officials, be it police or local administration, were hand in glove while committing atrocities on locals. This is the true picture of West Bengal," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said in New Delhi.

The Bengal BJP also cited a NCW report which revealed a troubling pattern of negligence and complicity by the state government and law enforcement officials.

18 arrested so far

The police have so far arrested 18 people including local TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar in connection with the incidents of violence at Sandeshkhali. They have also added sections of 'gangrape' and 'attempted murder' against three of the prime accused, one of whom is still absconding.

Hazra was remanded in eight-day police custody by a court in Basirhat. He will again be produced at the court on February 26.

TMC delegation visits Sandeshkhali

Sensing the escalating public discontent, a delegation from the TMC, consisting of three ministers, visited Sandeshkhali on Sunday (February 18). They spoke to locals, affirming the party's commitment to maintaining "zero tolerance against any wrongdoing."

Senior minister Sujit Bose asked what action the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur have taken in alleged cases of atrocities there.

This is the second visit by a TMC delegation in the last week.

Since the first week of February, villages in Sandeshkhali block in North 24-Parganas district have witnessed protests over allegations of sexual atrocities on women and land grabbing by TMC leaders. A large number of women accused TMC strongman Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters of "land-grab and sexually assaulting" them under coercion.

Shajahan has been absconding after a mob, allegedly affiliated with him, attacked ED officials who had gone to search his premises in connection with a ration scam on January 5.

As the situation in Sandeshkhali in North 24-Parganas gradually returns to normalcy following a week of protests alleging TMC-led atrocities on villagers and sexual harassment of women, the police have been maintaining a strong vigil in the area.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday (February 19) a PIL seeking a court-monitored CBI or SIT probe into the violence.

(With agency inputs)

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