The Trinamool Congress has accused the BJP of wanting to cause trouble.


Amid a political firestorm between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP over claims of sexual assault by aides of a strongman from the ruling party in Sandeshkhali, NDTV spoke to several women in Sandeshkhali, who said they are “living in fear”. Conversations with the women revealed that while the allegations of rape and sexual violence made by the BJP may not be true, many were called to the party office at odd hours and were threatened if they refused. Some women also spoke of their husbands being tortured.

NDTV visited Sandeshkhali, an island close to the Indo-Bangladesh border where prohibitory orders have been imposed on all entry points, on Wednesday. While some women who have been protesting against Trinamool strongman Sheikh Shahjahan’s aides agreed to speak, none of them wanted to reveal their identity in front of television cameras, fearing reprisal and persecution.

One woman, who participated in the protests earlier, told NDTV, “These incidents must have taken place, otherwise why will the women say these things? You must enquire for yourself. Why else will women come out on the streets and speak out? Are they lying? There must be truth in these statements.”

“We are living in fear. We don’t come out of our homes because of fear,” she added.

Another woman said, “They (Shahjahan’s aides) would call women for meetings or rallies but there was no fixed time. It could be day or night. We would have to go whenever they called and if we didn’t, they would threaten us.”

“Even if we did not want to go, they would force us. They gave us examples of the Lakshmi Bhandar scheme and the free rice scheme. They said Didi (West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee) is feeding you but you still won’t go to meetings? Even if it is at night, you have to go or we will kidnap you, they would say,” another woman claimed.

The women named Sheikh Shahjahan’s aides, Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar. While Sardar has been arrested, Hazra is on the run. Shahjahan has also been missing since an Enforcement Directorate team was attacked by a mob during a raid on his house in connection with an alleged ration scam on January 5.

“Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar would call us to the party office even at night on the pretext of holding a meeting,” another woman alleged.

Asked if there have been allegations of sexual assault, the woman said, “They would torture us. They targeted women by picking up their husbands and beating them up with a stick in the party office. If we refused to go to the party office, they would pick up the men and thrash them so we would be forced to go.”

Claims, Counterclaims

Earlier on Wednesday, West Bengal BJP President Sukanta Majumdar allegedly suffered injuries during a clash with the police as he attempted to go to Sandeshkhali despite police restrictions and prohibitory orders. He has been admitted to a hospital in Kolkata. Some have claimed Mr Majumdar’s injuries were the result of him falling after climbing atop a police car to protest.

The BJP has alleged that women have been sexually harassed and raped in Sandeshkhali and wanted to visit the area to speak to them.

Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari. said, “What happened with BJP state president is being condemned by the whole country. As Leader of Opposition, I condemn the way the state police treated him. We will protest against this on Thursday. Action should be taken against the person whose orders are being followed by the police.”

The Trinamool hit back at the BJP and said the opposition party wants to create trouble as peace is returning to the area. West Bengal Minister Shashi Panja told reporters, “There is a competition between BJP leaders over who is a bigger leader and who can reach Sandeshkhali. Because of this competition, they attempted to reach Sandeshkhali again. They protested on Tuesday as well. Now they say he (Mr Majumdar) has fainted. He has been brought to Kolkata for treatment.”

“We are saying that the situation is returning to normal and the National Women’s Commission visited the area on Wednesday and they are also saying no sexual harassment of women has taken place. What does Sukanta Majumdar want to hear after this,” Ms Panja asked.

In a post on X, the West Bengal Police has also denied any such allegations or complaints and warned against “wilful misinformation” by sections of the media. 

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