Sandeshkhali: Villagers lodge over 1,250 complaints at govt camps

Around 400 complaints pertain to land matters, on issues such as unauthorised occupation and alteration in land titles, says BDO

Screengrab from a video of the violence in Sandeshkhali
Screengrab from a video of the violence in Sandeshkhali


Over 1,250 complaints, including 400 related to land disputes, have been received at government camps in Sandeshkhali block in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district, where the administration is conducting a mass outreach programme to address grievances among locals, officials said.

Sandeshkhali Block 2, the epicentre of the violent protests triggered by allegations of land encroachment and sexual misconduct involving local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, has contributed the largest share of close to 1,000 complaints.

"Since 18 February, when government assistance camps commenced operations, the collective tally of applications from Sandeshkhali and adjacent areas has surpassed 1,250, with the majority stemming from Sandeshkhali Block 2," a senior official of the Basirhat sub-division, which oversees Sandeshkhali, told PTI.

According to Arun Kumar Samanta, the BDO of Sandeshkhali Block 2, his office has received over 1,000 complaints. "Of the total complaints, around 400 pertain to land matters, encompassing various issues such as unauthorised occupation and alterations in land titles. Additionally, we have received applications highlighting difficulties in accessing the state’s welfare schemes," Samanta told PTI.

Meanwhile, officials from Sandeshkhali Block 1 have registered 250 complaints, with 14 relating to land disputes. "So far, we have received 250 applications from locals about their grievances," Sandeshkhali Block 1 BDO Sayantan Sen said.

Detailing the nature of land-related grievances, the district official of Basirhat sub-division said, "Complaints range from forcible seizures to non-payment of leased land. We are meticulously scrutinising documents and collaborating with block-level authorities to address these concerns."

Sukumar Mahato, the TMC MLA from Sandeshkhali, asserted that the dispensation has taken a proactive stance in resolving land disputes. "We are mobilising resources both within the party and in the administration to swiftly redress land-related grievances. Additionally, efforts are underway to expedite the resolution of extortion allegations. Police are also looking into the allegations of sexual abuse and torture,” he told PTI.

The BJP, meanwhile, accused the TMC and local administration of complicity in crimes against women and exploitation of villagers. Samik Bhattacharya, a BJP spokesperson, questioned the timing of TMC's response. "Why did such atrocities occur under their watch? The Trinamool Congress and the local administration colluded in perpetrating violence against women," he claimed.

The situation remains tense in Sandeshkhali, as authorities endeavour to address multifaceted challenges. The unrest principally revolves around allegations levelled against TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh and his supporters over land encroachment and sexual assault. Two of his associates, Uttam Sardar and Shibaprasad Hazra, are already in police custody.

Sheikh has remained elusive since a mob attack on Enforcement Directorate officials on 5 January, while they were conducting a raid on premises belonging to him.

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