Bengal: Women in Sandeshkhali Narrate Stories of Alleged Sexual Assault by TMC Leaders, 2 Accused Absconding
The fighting women of Sandeshkhali
Kolkata: It was a tense day in West Bengal as the state erupted in protests against the alleged harassment of women in Sandeshkhali of North 24 Parganas district. As per the victims, they were allegedly harassed repeatedly by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders for the last many years.
As per the victims that The Wire spoke to, they allegedly faced sexual assaults at the hands of TMC leaders.
"They brought me into the party office, where a group of people were drinking. For the next one and a half days, two of them tortured me in the party office itself. I was told that my husband would not 'take me back' after this, so I should stay on with the men in the room – that they would eventually give me a government job. They said they would place my husband's severed head on my palms if I complained about what they had done to me," said one woman.
AIAWU rally in Maldah against the arrest of their State Secretary Nirapada Sardar
"Any woman found attractive by a TMC leader would be brought to the party office, and leaders would take turns to rape her. Your caste or religion won't matter," she added.
The victims told the reporters how the men in their families were beaten up when they complained about the sexual assaults.
Many of these stories came out after ED officials were beaten up when they went to arrest the local TMC leader, Shahjahan Sheikh.
Sheikh is now absconding along with Zila Parishad member Shibu Hazra. Sheikh, Hazra and Uttam Sardar are the names called out by the victims in the peripheral area of the Sundarbans.
West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose, who visited Sandeshkhali, also witnessed the wrath of villagers. Bose cut his Kerala trip short to visit the affected families of Sandeshkhali.
As the stories started coming out, the angry villagers reacted against the alleged harassers, who had their businesses vandalised. The villagers destroyed a poultry farm and an animal husbandry farm of Hazra and Uttam Sardar, respectively.
While Hazra and Shahjahan are absconding, Uttam Sardar was caught by the angry villagers, who thrashed him and handed him over to the police. The police were forced to arrest him.
Despite absconding, Hazra filed an FIR against 111 villagers, including Nirapada Sardar, for destroying his husbandry farm. Nirapada Sardar is a front-ranking mass organisation functionary of the state and secretary of the All India Agricultural Workers Union. He was attending the state committee meeting of CPI(M) in Kolkata when Hazra's property was attacked by the villagers.
Despite this, the police arrested Nirapada Sardar from Kolkata and took him to Bansdroni police station. After making him wait for five hours, Nirapada Sardar was handed over to Bashirhaat police station.
Police barricades Sandeshkhali ferry banks to thwart AIDWA leadership from visiting Sandeshkhali
CPI(M) called a strike to protest Nirapada Sardar's arrest. Hundreds of locals attended the strike and asked the police to release the local CPI(M) leader immediately.
When AIDWA leader Koninika Ghosh visited the affected areas with SFI and DYFI activists, they were stopped by the police. They were told that section 144 had been enforced in the entire Sandeshkhali area.
However, the Left activists broke the police barricade and talked to the villagers. Afterwards, they reached the Sandeshkhali police stations, which, for the last couple of days, have been gheraoed by the affected villagers.
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