Sandeshkhali witnesses fresh tensions; Bengal BJP chief removed from village

Prime Minister Narendra Modi likely to visit Barasat in North 24 Parganas on March 6 and address a women’s rally

Updated - February 23, 2024 01:47 am IST

Published - February 22, 2024 09:23 pm IST - Kolkata

West Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar along with supporters stage a dharna outside Sandeshkhali police station demanding the arrest of Trinamool leader Shahjahan Sheikh in Sandeshkhali on February 22, 2024.

West Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar along with supporters stage a dharna outside Sandeshkhali police station demanding the arrest of Trinamool leader Shahjahan Sheikh in Sandeshkhali on February 22, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

Fresh protests erupted in Sandeshkhali on February 22 against alleged “land grabbing” by Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan’s brother Sheikh Sirajuddin.

Hundreds of villagers of Bermajur area of Sandeshkhali took part in the protest against the local Trinamool leadership. A hut beside a bhery (shallow water pond) was also set on fire. Senior police officers including Deputy Inspector General of Police Basirhat Bhaskar Mukherjee and Superintendent of Police Basirhat Hossain Mehdi Rahman assured residents that their complaints will be registered.

“The police never register our complaints. Sirajuddin and his brother Shahjahan have usurped our land. Whenever we approach the police they ask us to approach Shahjahan and Sirajuddin,” a villager said. The villagers also expressed fear that they would be subjected to torture by the local Trinamool members once the police personnel leave. Protests also erupted in the Jhupkhali area of Sandeshkhali where locals made similar allegations of land grab.

Also read | Women most unsafe in only State with woman CM, says BJP on Sandeshkhali

During the day, State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar visited Sandeshkhali and sat in protest outside the police station. Mr. Majumdar was visiting the strife-torn region for the first time after being prevented from vising the village earlier. During his protest, Mr. Majumdar demanded the arrest of Mr. Shahjahan. Tension prevailed as the BJP leader was removed from the protest site and escorted out of Sandeshkhali. Some women claimed that they were injured in the scuffle. According to the police, the BJP leader was removed because he was violating prohibitory orders imposed on the island.

PM’s visit to district

Earlier, the West Bengal BJP president said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit Barasat in North 24 Parganas district on March 6 and address a women’s rally. The planned visit assumes significance as Sandeshkhali, one of the villages in the district, remains on the boil. The Prime Minister may also meet some of the women affected by violence at Sandeshkhali. In Delhi, the BJP released a half-hour documentary on the Sandeshkhali violence where people have alleged torture at the hands of Mr. Shahjahan. The North 24 Parganas district administration imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of Cr.PC at five fresh places. Other than allegations of land grab, women have alleged sexual assault by Trinamool leaders.

Meanwhile, Sandeshkhali’s Trinamool MLA Sukumar Mahato faced the wrath of villagers when he reached Sandeshkhali. The irate villagers asked the MLA why he was visiting the region after two weeks. The MLA acknowledged “lapses” had taken place in the past and asserted the party’s commitment to rectifying them. “Yes, mistakes have been made. However, the people of Sandeshkhali repose their complete trust in [Chief Minister] Mamata Banerjee. All grievances will be duly addressed,” the MLA said. The MLA and police administration also broke open gates of a playground that was designated as Sheikh Shahjahan fan club.

A team of National Commission of Scheduled Tribes (NCST) also visited Sandeshkhali on Thursday and spoke to the people about their grievances. Teams of National Commission for Women and National Commission for Scheduled Castes have also visited the area and interacted with locals recently. Two local Trinamool leaders, Uttam Sardar and Shiboprasad Hazra, have been arrested but Mr. Shahjahan remains on the run.

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