Sandeshkhali rape survivor alleges attack on her home

The survivor said that no protection has been provided to her by the police after she lodged her complaint before a magistrate

February 18, 2024 09:16 pm | Updated 09:42 pm IST - Sandeshkhali (West Bengal)

 People hold a banner during a protest march against Sandeshkhali case, in Kolkata, on February 18, 2024.

People hold a banner during a protest march against Sandeshkhali case, in Kolkata, on February 18, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

A woman who has alleged sexual assault by local Trinamool Congress leaders in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali on February 18 said that miscreants ransacked her house on February 17.

“Last night, I was not at home. A group of miscreants came and attacked the house. They hurled abuses at me and my father-in-law,” the survivor told The Hindu. 

These allegations come only a day after West Bengal Police went on record and said that it had added charges of gangrape on the basis of a complaint by the woman before a magistrate. The woman made these allegations before the magistrate on February 16 and named local Trinamool Congress leaders Uttam Sardar and Shiboprasad Hazra in her complaint.

“They wanted to kill me. Had I been at the house at night, they would have certainly killed me,” the survivor said, pointing to parts of her thatched house that appeared to have been damaged.

The woman said that no protection had been provided to her by the police after she lodged the complaint. “I had thought that they would spare me after I made a complaint to the authorities, but things are getting difficult every day. We deserve at least some dignity,” she said.

The woman said that those who had attacked her house identified themselves as the “police” and were angry with her for registering the complaint of sexual assault. Despite the arrest of local Trinamool leaders Uttam Sardar (on February 10) and Shiboprasad Hazra (on February 17), the survivor said that she did not feel safe as their supporters were still roaming free. The survivor reached out to other women of the island, who arrived at her house and suggested that she should lodge a police complaint.

The police officials at Sandeshkhali denied receiving any complaint on the attack on the survivor’s house till Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, West Bengal Director General of Police Rajeev Kumar had said that the police had reached out to the survivor but she chose to make allegations under Section 164 of Cr.P.C before the magistrate. The West Bengal Police have also claimed that they helped the survivor reach out to the magistrate.

Grievance redressal booths

Meanwhile, the island in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas continues to seethe in anger against the local Trinamool Congress leadership. The State administration has also started setting up grievance redressal booths across the islands.

On Sunday, almost every school on the island had booths of the State’s Agriculture Department, Food Department, and Land Department, where people lined up to file their complaints on irregularities by the local Trinamool Congress leadership. A senior government officer managing these booths said most of the complaints were related to forcibly turning agricultural land into bheries (shallow ponds) for aquaculture, particularly prawn cultivation.

Along with the district administration, the Trinamool Congress leadership also chose Sunday to assuage public anger over alleged atrocities by the local party leadership.

Ministers to assuage anger

Three Ministers of the West Bengal government — Irrigation Minister Partha Bhowmick, Fire Minister Sujit Bose, and Forest Minister Birbaha Hansda, on Sunday visited Sandeshkhali and met the locals.

“On the advice of Nat’l GS Shri @abhishekaitc, a 3-member delegation visited Sandeshkhali today. Led by Shri @ParthaAITC, Shri @sujitboseaitc and Smt.@Birbaha_Hansda, the delegation connected with the local community, assessed ground-level realities and gathered first-hand information,” the Trinamool Congress posted from its social media handle.

“This proactive initiative by our leaders reflects their dedication not only to promptly addressing challenges but also to ensuring the welfare of the community,” the party said. The Trinamool Congress Ministers said that they visited areas where there were no prohibitory orders. The leaders of Opposition parties have not been allowed in parts of the island by the police on the grounds that prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC were in place.

Sandeshkhali has been on the boil since February 6, when locals erupted in protests against the alleged atrocities of local Trinamool Congress leaders Sheikh Shahjahan, Shiboprasad Hazra, and Uttam Gayen. Mr. Hazra, who is the local block president of the Trinamool Congress, was arrested on Saturday, and on Sunday a local court remanded him to eight days of police custody.

Mr. Shahjahan, who is also accused of inciting an attack on a team of Enforcement Directorate officials during a raid on his residence on January 5, is still absconding.

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