March 03, 2024

WB: Sandeshkhali: Horror Saga Goes On

Subinoy Moulik

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DESPITE frantic efforts by Mamata Banerjee's administration to suppress the news, the horrors that took place under the leadership of Sheikh Shahjahan's forces in Sandeshkhali during the last ten years of the Trinamool regime have now spread across the mainstream media. The rule of law had collapsed in Sandeshkhali. The BDO has been assaulted. Rice fields have been forcibly occupied and inundated with salt water and converted into fish farms. The villagers were deprived of their allowances from various state government schemes. Housing scheme allotments have been taken away. And the most brutal thing that happened was women were forcibly taken from home to Trinamool office at night to entertain the leaders. This sexual abuse continued day after day.

As the popular resistance movement in Sandeshkhali against sexual atrocities on women and land grab by local TMC leaders is reaching its peaks with women in large numbers leading the agitation the jittery TMC government tends to respond almost automatically with coercive defensiveness that often transgresses the bounds set by law. The legal fiasco targetting former MLA of Sandeshkhali, CPI(M) state committee member Nirapada Sardar is a case in point.

That the police in the TMC regime notoriously overstep their rights with alarming regularity is a well known fact. But what happened in the case of Nirapada Sardar seems to have crossed all limits. Before the complainant filed a written complaint, the police filed an FIR on his behalf and started the case!  An FIR was filed against   Sardar on February 9 while the complaint was received by police on February 10.   And on that basis  Nirapada Sardar was taken into custody. The police have worked with great efficiency, commented the judge before granting bail and exhorting immediate release.


The Kolkata High Court granted bail to Sardar on a personal bond of Rs 10,000. On February 27, Justice Debanshu Basak granted this bail and said that today (February 27) Sardar should be released. If not released today, it will be considered as contempt of court. After being reprimanded by the  court, Sardar was released from Basirhat jail in the late evening after 17 days of imprisonment.

After coming out of Basirhat Jail, Sardar told the journalists, “Trinamool leaders are responsible for today's Sandeshkhali. Is it believable that the chief minister did not know anything? What I complained about in the assembly as a CPI(M) MLA is being proved true today. Since 2013, I have complained about this lawlessness in the assembly. No action has been taken by the government. Is it credible that Mamata Banerjee's party does not know where Shahjahan is? Shahjahan should have been arrested the very day (January 5) when the attack on ED happened.  Bailable cases were filed against the attackers and non-bailable cases were filed against the protestors. As long as the chief minister keeps me in jail, the people of Sandeshkhali will not let her rest.  Don’t you see their leaders running away every day? People of the opposition party are not allowed to enter the area while Trinamool leaders and ministers are performing Harikirtan while going to Sandeshkhali. This is like a joke going on with the people of the state.”

From the arrest of   Sardar to his bail, the lies of the police administration, which has turned into a slave to political masters, and the administrative bungling of the government have come to the fore. Police of Sandeshkhali police station arrested Sardar on February 11, after picking him up from his house at Banshadroni in South Kolkata based on the complaint of zilla parishad member from TMC, Shibu Hazra, who is one of the accused in multiple crimes including hooliganism, rape, molestation throughout Sandeshkhali-2 block. The investigating police officer shown in the arrest memo of Sardar is not from Sandeshkhali police station at all, but is working in Haroa police station. On the day of the incident on which the complaint was filed against   Sardar, he was present at the state committee meeting of the party at the CPI(M) state office in Kolkata. In this case, after three days of police custody, he was granted bail on the 15th, but the police immediately re-arrested him on the basis of the FIR filed by Bhanu Mandal, the caretaker of   Shibu Hazra’s fish farm. Sardar was   in jail for the last 12 days in that case. However, the written complaint filed by the Trinamool worker Bhanu Mandal to the OC of Sandeshkhali Police Station is dated February 10 alleging that 77 people, including Sardar, had attacked their poultry farm with firearms and set it on fire. But the FIR filed by the police is dated February 9. That is, Bhanu Mandal complained on the 10th, and the police filed an FIR 24 hours in advance on the 9th!

The court expressed surprise and said - such stupid accusations are very shocking in the case of arrest! Apart from reprimanding the police, the court also sought a report from the district superintendent of police on the arrest of Sardar.

Justice Debanshu Basak questioned just as Nirapada  Sardar has been arrested following a complaint, why shall  action not be taken against the police now? Why will the accused police not be arrested? How is it possible that an FIR happens before a complaint? According to Justice Basak, the process by which Nirapada Sardar has been detained for so long is not correct. No one can be detained like this. Sardar's lawyer Bikashranjan Bhattacharya said, my client has been detained in a false case. A lower court granted him bail in one case. After this bail was granted, he was again arrested in another case. He has been detained for 17 days completely illegally, on a false case.

  Sardar was scheduled to be produced again in the Basirhat court on February 28. But much before that, the Kolkata High Court on February 27, granted him unconditional bail and ordered his speedy release. Lawyer Samim Ahmed, Sudipta Dasgupta, Ark Maiti assisted Bikashranjan Bhattacharya in the High Court.


While the Trinamool government is desperate in its bid to hide the real incidents from the public eye by imposing prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC almost in the whole of Sandeshkhali, Brinda Karat, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and leader of the All India Democratic Women's Association reached Sandeshkhali on February 21 to show solidarity to the affected but fighting people, especially women. She and the state AIDWA leadership including the state secretary Kaninika were stopped at Dhamakhali ferry ghat on their way to Sandeshkhali. The police wanted to detain them there. But they were forced to step down after a couple of hours, ultimately giving in to the steadfast attitude of the women leaders.

There, Brinda Karat said, "Although the police here are wearing official uniforms, they are actually working for Trinamool. A woman from Sandeshkhali who is a victim of atrocity called me and asked me to come to them.    I know the Trinamool-backed hooligans rule the roost at Sandeshkhali. But what can we say about the wellness of village women and others? I want to go to those who are not well.”  

She said to the police in a sarcastic tone, "The police are doing a great job. They   are making sure that the Trinamool gangsters enjoy fullest immunity. But the road to justice seems to be closed for the tortured women. It is very, very inhumane. On behalf of the All India Democratic Women's Association we want to go there. I want to talk to the oppressed. The police are obstructing. The police are saying that Section 144 is in force. But we have told them several times that only four of us want to go there.”

After visiting three-four villages of Sandeshkhali, the leaders of the women's movement got various details of the Trinamool's atrocities by talking to the village women. Brinda met the women from the tribal communities, who broke into tears on seeing her.  In this context, Brinda Karat told reporters, "I am reminded of   what Yogi Adityanath's government did in Hathras. Here it appears that  Mamata Banerjee's government is doing the same thing. In fact, like Yogi Adityanath, Mamata Banerjee is trying to hide something.”

Many complaints were made by women victims. Rekha Goswami, former minister in Left Front government, and Brinda Karat praised their courage and movement and affirmed their commitment to stand by their struggle. The women of Natunpara, Patrapara, Maitipara, Naskarpara approached the AIDWA leaders and said, "Until the arrest of Sheikh Shahjahan and his life imprisonment along with the harshest sentence against Shibaprasad Hazra, Uttam Sardar and their gang, peace will not return to Sandeshkhali. Our movement will not stop till then. "

Meanwhile, a team of student youth led by DYFI state secretary Meenakshi Mukherjee visited Sandeshkhali on February 24. They crossed the river and reached the village to hear the complaints of the people of Sandeshkhali. They entered Sandeshkhali practically by throwing dust in the eyes of the police. The local police-administration had no advance notice of this journey. They did not go down the road which is usually taken and chose an alternative route.

Meenakshi Mukherjee and state president of DYFI Dhrubajyoti Saha plied on a toto rickshaw from one village to another. They went to the house of the tortured and talked to them. They told the youth leadership many incidents of how Sheikh Shahjahan's gang took over the land by intimidation and forcibly turned it into a fish farm. Almost every family complained of not being provided houses under Awas Yojana although they were perfectly eligible. The TMC leaders were taking commission from the wages of one hundred days of work.

 There are two areas in these neighbourhoods, where poor people live more. Allegations of sexual harassment against TMC leader were heard in almost every neighbourhood. It was alleged that Trinamool-police combine have filed a case against 187 people who have risen to protest. The villagers expressed their anger against this. But one element was everywhere the same. The people of every neighbourhood, especially the women, said, “We will fight. We want justice and the strictest punishment for Shahjahan.”

The youth leadership was talking to local women in a house in the middle of the neighbourhood when a large contingent of police force surrounded the house. The youth leadership wanted to know the reason for blocking the road from the officer-in-charge AJA Rahman. The female officer could neither say why they had barricaded the road nor could she show any written instructions. She just said, 'you can't go anywhere from here.' When the youth leaders tried to advance, they were pushed back by the police and RAF.

Meenakshi Mukherjee said in response to journalists' questions in Sandeshkhali, "We wanted to go to Sandeshkhali police station. The police did not let us go there and detained us for a long time. What do the police want? Sandeshkhali people are being tortured. Their livelihoods have been robbed.TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan, Shibu Hazra, Uttam Sardar and their gang have built fish farms by occupying the cultivable land. The salt water of the river has been made to enter the cultivated land. Women's dignity has been taken away. Is it possible for anyone to accept this?” Youth leadership went from Sandeshkhali   to Basirhat and gave deputation to Superintendent of Police (Basirhat) Hossain Mehdi Rahman there.

Although the TMC government has employed its familiar damage-control strategy by deploying its favourite police officers, Sandeshkhali is on the boil showing no signs of relent. A Left Front delegation led by chairman Biman Basu is scheduled to visit the region on February 29. 




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