Sandeshkhali: NCW recommends president's rule in WB in report to Murmu

The report details "heinous acts" of violence against women in Basirhat police district, particularly on TMC party office premises

NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma met the President on 5 March and submitted a report on Sandeshkhali (photo: IANS)
NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma met the President on 5 March and submitted a report on Sandeshkhali (photo: IANS)


Imposing President's Rule in West Bengal, replacing the personnel deployed at Sandeshkhali police station, strengthening intelligence-gathering mechanisms and establishing support services for victims of crime, including counselling, legal aid and rehabilitation, are among the recommendations the National Commission for Women (NCW) has made to President Droupadi Murmu in a report submitted on 5 March.

NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma met Murmu and submitted the report based on the feedback received by her as well as a fact-finding team of the commission that visited Sandeshkhali last month.

The report details "heinous acts" of violence allegedly perpetrated against women in Basirhat police district of North 24 Parganas district, particularly within the premises of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party office.

Sandeshkhali's TMC strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates have been accused of confining women unlawfully and subjecting them to rape, molestation and physical abuse, the report said. "Despite Sheikh Shahjahan's known criminal record and numerous complaints against him, no action was taken against the accused," the NCW said.

After evading authorities for more than 50 days, Shahjahan was arrested by West Bengal Police on 29 February. Following his arrest, the TMC suspended him from the party for six years.

Reports in the media as well as on social media platforms recounted harrowing experiences by women who claimed to have suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of both police officers and TMC members in Sandeshkhali.

The report said an inquiry committee (IC) chaired by Sharma was set up by the NCW to investigate these incidents. "Upon visiting Sandeshkhali, the IC found numerous complaints of physical and sexual abuse, land acquisition and wrongful arrests of male family members. However, their attempts to meet with local authorities, including the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, were met with negligence and apathy," the report said.

The observations made by the committee underscored a total breakdown of law and order in Sandeshkhali, with a disturbingly high incidence of violence against women. Political pressure on police, under-reporting of incidents owing to fear and stigma, and inadequate support services were among the key issues highlighted, it said.

In light of these findings, the NCW proposed several recommendations, including the imposition of President's Rule in West Bengal, appointment of a central or judicial body to investigate the violence, and replacement of the police personnel in Sandeshkhali.

Additionally, implementing socio-economic schemes for villagers, community awareness programmes and enhancing victim support services were suggested in the report to address the root causes of violence and promote community resilience.

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