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Caste Panel On Sandeshkhali Clashes, Rape Claim

'Impose President's Rule': Caste Panel On Sandeshkhali Clashes, Rape Claim

Sandeshkhali is on an island in the Kalindi River in Bengal’s North 24 Paraganas.

The NCSC, or National Commission for Scheduled Castes, on Friday recommended President’s Rule in Bengal amid violence and political tension after the BJP accused a Trinamool Congress strongman – the on-the-run Sheikh Shahjahan – and his aides of multiple counts of sexual assault in Sandeshkhali.

A delegation visited Sandeshkhali Thursday and submitted a report to President Droupadi Murmu this morning. NCSC Chairperson Arun Halder said, “Criminals in the state have joined hands with the government there (and this) is impacting the lives of members of the Scheduled Caste communities.”

Mr Halder also claimed the NCSC received no help from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government, when trying to meet the women who were allegedly assaulted by Sheikh Shahjahan.

The village at the centre of the latest ferocious war between the BJP and the Trinamool is on an island in the Kalindi River, in the Basirhat subdivision of Bengal’s North 24 Paraganas district.

Political tensions have been ramped up by authorities stopping delegations from the BJP – sent forth by party boss JP Nadda – and the Congress, which is (nominally still) an ally of the ruling Trinamool.

The Congress group was led by the party’s state boss, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is an unrelenting critic of Ms Banerjee and has accused her of trying to politicise the issue.

“Why are opposition parties being stopped from entering Sandeshkhali? What is the state trying to hide? Why are they trying to politicise it?” he asked of reporters in Kolkata.

Earlier the BJP group was also stopped and is now meeting Governor CV Ananda Bose. The group has accused Ms Banerjee of being “scared” and said “Hindu women were raped… Bengal is burning”.

The turmoil here early January with the Enforcement Directorate trying to raid Shahjahan’s residence in connection with a multi-crore ration distribution scam. His men reportedly assaulted the probe agency’s officers, leading to some violence and injuries to the ED personnel.

READ | Bengal Leader “Missing” Since Probe Team Attacked, Had Bangladesh Plans

Shahjahan and a close aide have been missing since then, January 5.

That flare-up has snowballed with allegations – of the rape of “young Hindu married women”, as claimed by Union Minister Smriti Irani Tuesday – as well as charges of land grabbing.

The women also alleged torture, claiming they were targeted by Trinamool leaders who kidnapped their husbands and then summoned their wives to the party’s local office. “If we refused to go… they would thrash them. We were forced…” one woman, who did not reveal her identity, said.

The allegations reached the Supreme Court this morning after an advocate filed a PIL, or public interest litigation, calling for an inquiry by a special investigation team or the Central Bureau of Investigation. It also calls for action against cops who reportedly refused to register rape complaints.

Ms Banerjee has rubbished the claims, declaring “… have never allowed injustice” and counter-attacking by accusing the BJP of inciting trouble in Sandeshkhali before the Lok Sabha election.

“First they targeted Sheikh Shahjahan though ED, and then started trouble (in Sandeshkhali) by getting people in. There is an RSS base (there)… there were riots earlier too,” she said.

READ | “There’s RSS Base In Sandeshkhali”: Mamata Banerjee Responds

She also told the Assembly 17 people, including a former Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA, Nirapada Sardar, and a local BJP leader, Bikash Singh, have been arrested so far. “No one involved in any wrongdoing will be spared… I have sent the women’s commission and formed a police team.”

A local Trinamool leader – Uttam Sardar, who was suspended last week – was also arrested.

READ | Ex CPIM MLA Arrested In Violence-Hit Sandeshkhali Amid Protests

That, however, has not stopped attacks by Ms Banerjee’s critics.

READ | “Mamata Banerjee Is Silent Spectator”: BJP On Sandeshkhali Violence

NDTV visited Sandeshkhali Wednesday and spoke to several women.

NDTV Ground Report | “We Are Living in Fear”: Sandeshkhali Women To NDTV

The conversations revealed that while the BJP’s allegations of rape and sexual violence may not be true, many women were, in fact, called to the Trinamool’s local office at odd hours and threatened if they refused to comply. Some also said their husbands had been tortured.

READ | “Willful Misinformation”: Bengal Cops On Sandeshkhali Sexual Violence Reports

The cops, meanwhile, have claimed a section of media is spreading “willful misinformation” and issued a statement that “… reiterated (that) no allegations of sexual torture of women have been received, so far, during inquiries conducted by the State Women’s Commission and also police…”

With input from agencies

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