TMC ministers visit Sandeshkhali, say party has zero tolerance for wrongdoing

A minister said they were visiting only those areas of Sandeshkhali where prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC had not been imposed

The Sandeshkhali block I Panchayat office
The Sandeshkhali block I Panchayat office


Three Trinamool Congress (TMC) ministers on Sunday visited trouble-torn Sandeshkhali and said the party has zero tolerance against any wrongdoing, while questioning whether the BJP governments have taken any steps in states where allegations of atrocities on people were raised.

Senior minister Sujit Bose asked what action the BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur have taken in alleged cases of atrocities there. Partha Bhowmick, who was also part of the team, claimed that Union home minister Amit Shah came to West Bengal 42 times before the 2021 assembly elections in the state, but "people here do not care what he says".

Asserting that the TMC has "zero tolerance against any wrongdoing", he alleged that West Bengal was being targeted by the BJP leadership. "This is Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and not the BJP, we take action if anyone is found to have done anything wrong," Bhowmick told reporters.

In his address at the BJP's national convention in New Delhi on Sunday, Shah claimed that hundreds of party workers had been killed in political violence in West Bengal.

Apart from Bose and Bhowmick, minister Birbaha Hansda was also part of the team which visited Sandeshkhali to speak to villagers and the local party leadership.

Villages in the Sandeshkhali area have witnessed protests over allegations of sexual atrocities on women and land grabbing since the first week of February, with the principal accused being Shahjahan Sheikh, Uttam Sardar, Shibaprasad Hazra and other local TMC leaders.

Hazra was arrested on Saturday while Sardar was picked up around a week ago. IPC sections of gangrape and attempt to murder were brought against the two, along with other charges, following a statement by an alleged victim before a magistrate.

To a question on whether action will be taken against Sheikh, Bhowmick claimed that he has no influence in Sandeshkhali.

Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials were attacked by a mob when they raided premises belonging to Sheikh on 5 January in connection with a probe into an alleged ration distribution scam.

TMC has already suspended Sardar, Bhowmick said, and claimed that allegations that villagers were still being terrorised by "TMC goons" were false and were being fabricated by the opposition BJP and CPI(M).

Bose said an enquiry into the allegations against Hazra, who is also a Zilla Parishad member of North 24 Parganas district, is being carried out by the party. The post of TMC block president of Sandeshkhali block II has been handed over to local MLA Sukumar Mahata in place of Hazra for the time being, he added.

Bose also said they would visit Sandeshkhali again on 26 February to review the situation there, and declared that the party would pay the dues of those villagers whose land holdings were allegedly grabbed by Hazra and Sardar without payment.

The minister said they were visiting only those areas of Sandeshkhali where prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC had not been imposed. Opposition party leaders, including Central ministers who were part of a BJP team, have accused the police administration of not allowing them to visit Sandeshkhali.

Prohibitory orders on congregations of five or more people are in place in 19 areas of Sandeshkhali.

Alleging that Sheikh was the kingpin of atrocities against villagers, opposition parties in the state are demanding that he be arrested. The police have also arrested former CPI(M) MLA of Sandeshkhali, Nirapad Sardar, and local BJP leader Bikash Singh, for their alleged involvement in instigating violent protests by villagers.

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